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HarperCollins e-books 

for Linda King 
for all the good reasons 

Table of Contents 

a free 25 page booklet 


the smoking car 


the world's greatest loser 


the garbageman 


girl in a miniskirt reading the bible 


moyamensing prison: 


notes upon the flaxen aspect: 




another academy 


a day at the oak tree meet 




the colored birds 


another lousy 10 percenter 


making it 


drunk ol' bukowski drunk 


the poetry reading 


slim killers 


the last days of the suicide kid 


bang bang 


5 men in black passing my window 


the poet's muse 




story and poem 


and the moon and the stars and the world 


get the nose 


my landlady and my landlord 


bad night 


hogs in the sky 


the white poets 


the black poets 






the painter 


the inquisitor 


my friend william 


300 poems 


lifting weights at 2 a.m. 






the good life at o'hare airport 


the golfers 




the mockingbird 


ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha 


a fine day and the world looks good 




3:16 and one half... 


the rat 








the passing of a dark gray moment 


consummation of grief 


those sons of bitches 


the hunt 


the big fire 


ww 2 




he wrote in lonely blood 


six chink fishermen 




a sound in the brush 


the wild 


4th of july 




99 degrees 


happy new year 


the shoelace 


chilled green 






american matador 


I saw an old-fashioned whore today 


poem for barbara, poem for jane 


short order 


the dwarf 


merry Christmas 




one with dante 


an interesting night 


a threat to my immortality 




a man's woman 


tight pink dress 


more or less, for julie 


this is the way it goes and goes and goes 


left with the dog 


praying for a best seller 


that one 


have you ever kissed a panther? 


2 carnations 


man and woman in bed at ten p.m. 


the answer 


a split 


power failure 


snake in the watermelon 




the shower 


if we take — 

About the Author 

Other Books by Charles Bukowski 



About the Publisher 



the world is full of shipping clerks 

who have read 

the Harvard Classics 

a free 25 page booklet 

dying for a beer dying 
for and of life 

on a windy afternoon in Hollywood 

listening to symphony music from my little red radio 

on the floor. 

a friend said, 

"all ya gotta do is go out on the sidewalk 
and lay down 
somebody will pick you up 
somebody will take care of you." 

I look out the window at the sidewalk 
I see something walking on the sidewalk 
she wouldn't lay down there, 

only in special places for special people with special $$$$ 

special ways 

while I am dying for a beer on a windy afternoon in 

nothing like a beautiful broad dragging it past you on the 

moving it past your famished window 

she's dressed in the finest cloth 

she doesn't care what you say 

how you look what you do 

as long as you do not get in her 

way, and it must be that she doesn't shit or 

have blood 

she must be a cloud, friend, the way she floats past us. 

I am too sick to lay down 

the sidewalks frighten me 

the whole damned city frightens me, 

what I will become 

what I have become 

frightens me. 


ah, the bravado is gone 
the big run through center is gone 
on a windy afternoon in Hollywood 
my radio cracks and spits its dirty music 
through a floor full of empty beerbottles. 

now I hear a siren 

it comes closer 

the music stops 

the man on the radio says, 

"we will send you a free 25 page booklet: 


the siren fades into the cardboard mountains 

and I look out the window again as the clasped fist of 

boiling cloud comes down — 

the wind shakes the plants outside 

I wait for evening I wait for night I wait sitting in a chair 

by the window — 

the cook drops in the live 

red-pink salty 

rough-tit crab and 

the game works 


come get me. 


the smoking car 

they stop out front here 

it looks as if the car is on fire 

the smoke blazes blue from the hood and exhaust 

the motor sounds like cannon shots 

the car humps wildly 

one guy gets out, 

Jesus, he says, he takes a long drink from a 

canvas water bag 

and gives the car an eerie look. 

the other guy gets out and looks at the car, 

Jesus, he says, 

and he takes a drink from a pint of whiskey, 

then passes the bottle to his 


they both stand and look at the car, 

one holding the whiskey, the other the water bag. 

they are not dressed in conventional hippie garb 

but in natural old clothes 

faded, dirty and torn. 

a butterfly goes past my window 

and they get back in the 


and it bucks off in low 
like a rodeo bronc 
they are both laughing 
and one has the bottle 

the butterfly is gone 

and outside there is a globe of smoke 

40 feet in circumference. 

first human beings I've seen in Los Angeles 
in 15 years. 


the world's greatest loser 

he used to sell papers in front: 

"Get your winners! Get rich on a dime!" 

and about the 3rd or 4th race 

you'd see him rolling in on his rotten board 

with roller skates underneath. 

he'd propel himself along on his hands; 

he just had small stumps for legs 

and the rims of the skate wheels were worn off. 

you could see inside the wheels and they would wobble 

something awful 

shooting and flashing 

imperialistic sparks! 

he moved faster than anybody, rolled cigarette dangling, 
you could hear him coming 

"god o mighty, what was that?" the new ones asked. 

he was the world's greatest loser 
but he never gave up 

wheeling toward the 2 dollar window screaming: 




up on the board the 4 would be reading 
60 to one. 

I never heard him pick a winner. 

they say he slept in the bushes. I guess that's where he 

died, he's not around any 


there was the big fat blonde whore 
who kept touching him for luck, and 

nobody had any luck, the whore is gone 

I guess nothing ever works for us. we're fools, of course — 


bucking the inside plus a 15 percent take, 
but how are you going to tell a dreamer 
there's a 15 percent take on the 
dream? he'll just laugh and say, 
is that all? 

I miss those 


the garbageman 

we do not accept unsolicited manuscripts 
the garbageman said 
dropping to one knee 

and blowing the head away from the priest's 

and as the green bus stopped at the corner 
a cripple got out and a witch and a little girl 
with a flower. 

we do not accept unsolicited manuscripts 

the garbageman said 

and he shot the cripple and the witch 

but did not fire at the little girl, 

then he ran down an alley 

and climbed up on the roof of a garage, 


as the Goodyear Blimp sailed overhead 

he pumped 6 shots, saying, 

here are some unsolicited manuscripts, 

and the blimp wavered, paused, 

then began to nose down as 2 men parachuted 


saying Hail Marys. 

8 squad cars entered the area 

and began to surround the garage 

and the garbageman said, 

we do not accept unsolicited manuscripts 

and he got one cop, 

and then they really began firing. 

the garbageman stood up in the center of the sky, 

threw his loaded rifle at them 

and all the shells 

and he said, 

we do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, 
and the first bullet got him in the chest, 
spun him, 

another in the back, one in the neck, and 

he fell on top of the garage roof, 

the blood rolling out on the tarpaper, 

blood like syrup blood like honey blood like blood, 

he said. 

Holy Mary, we do not accept. . . 


girl in a miniskirt reading the bible 
outside my window 

Sunday. I am eating a 

grapefruit, church is over at the Russian 

Orthodox to the 


she is dark 
of Eastern descent, 

large brown eyes look up from the Bible 

then down, a small red and black 

Bible, and as she reads 

her legs keep moving, moving, 

she is doing a slow rhythmic dance 

reading the Bible. . . 

long gold earrings; 

2 gold bracelets on each arm, 
and it's a mini-suit, I suppose, 
the cloth hugs her body, 
the lightest of tans is that cloth, 
she twists this way and that, 
long young legs warm in the sun. . . 

there is no escaping her being 

there is no desire to. . . 

my radio is playing symphonic music 

that she cannot hear 

but her movements coincide exactly 

to the rhythms of the 


she is dark, she is dark 
she is reading about God. 

I am God. 


moyamensing prison : 

we shot craps in the exercise yard while the 
dummies played ball with a torn-up shirt 
wound into a ball 

once or twice a day we had to break it up 
under a tommy gun from the tower — 
some blank-faced screw pointing it at 
us, but, 

by god, through it we somehow played 

and through some skill and 


I soon had all the money in the yard. 

and in the morning and in the days that followed — 

the screws, the sparrows, the shivs, the dips, the 

strongarms, the looneys, the hustlers, the freaks, 

the discarded dream-presidents of America, the cook, 

in fact, all my critics, they all called me 

"Mr. Bukowski," a kind of fleeting immortality 

I guess, 

but real as hogs' heads or dead flowers, 
and the force of it 
got to me there: 

"Mr. Bukowski," ace-crapshooter, 
money-man in a world of almost no 

I didn't recite them Shelley, no, 

and everything came to me after lights out: 

slim-hipped boys I didn't want 

steaks and ice cream and cigars which I did 

want, and 

shaving cream, new razorblades, the latest copy of the 
New Yorker. 

what greater immortality than Heaven in Hell, 

and I continued to enjoy it until they 

threw me out on the streets 

back to my typewriter, 

innocent, lazy, frightened and mortal 



notes upon the flaxen aspect: 

a John F. Kennedy flower knocks upon my door and is 
shot through the neck; 

the gladiolas gather by the dozens around the tip of 

dripping into Ceylon; 

dozens of oysters read Germaine Greer. 

meanwhile, I itch from the slush of the Philippines 
to the eye of the minnow 

the minnow being eaten by the cumulative dreams of 
Simon Bolivar. O, 

freedom from the limitation of angular distance would be 


war is perfect, 

the solid way drips and leaks, 

Schopenhauer laughed for 72 years, 

and I was told by a very small man in a New York City 


one afternoon: 

"Christ got more attention than I did 
but I went further on less. 

well, the distance between 5 points is the same as the 
distance between 3 points is the same as the distance 
between one point: 

it is all as cordial as a bonbon: 
all this that we are wrapped 

eunuchs are more exact than sleep 

the postage stamp is mad, Indiana is ridiculous 

the chameleon is the last walking flower. 



I drive to the beach at night 
in the winter 

and sit and look at the burned-down amusement pier 
wonder why they just let it sit there 
in the water. 

I want it out of there, 

that pier should no longer sit there 
with madmen sleeping inside 
the burned-out guts of the funhouse. . . 
it's awful, I say, blow the damn thing up, 
get it out of my eyes, 
that tombstone in the sea. 

the madmen can find other holes 
to crawl into. 

I used to walk that pier when I was 8 
years old. 


another academy 

how can they go on, you see them 

sitting in old doorways 

with dirty stained caps and thick clothes and 

no place to go; 

heads bent down, arms on 

knees they wait. 

or they stand in front of the Mission 
700 of them 
quiet as oxen 

waiting to be let into the chapel 

where they will sleep upright on the hard benches 

leaning against each other 

snoring and 




in New York City 

where it gets colder 

and they are hunted by their own 

kind, these men often crawl under car radiators, 

drink the anti-freeze, 

get warm and grateful for some minutes, then 

but that is an older 
culture and a wiser 

here they scratch and 

while on Sunset Boulevard the 

hippies and yippies 

hitchhike in 



out in front of the Mission I heard one guy say to 

"John Wayne won it." 

"Won what?" said the other guy 


tossing the last of his rolled cigarette into the 

I thought that was 
rather good. 


a day at the oak tree meet 

Filet's Rule, the 12 horse around 12 to one, 
that was the first race, they had a different 
janitor in the men's room, and I didn't have the 
2nd race either. Bold Courage, around 19 to one, 
my Kentucky Lark got a dead ride from the boy 
who stood up in the saddle all the way, which is 
hardly a way to ride a 2 to one shot, and I 
got a roast beef sandwich for $1.10, if you're going 
to go broke you might as well eat well, and in the 
3rd Grandby had to pull up to avoid Factional who 
came over on him, the stewards argued for 15 
minutes before allowing it to stand, and there I was 
52 dollars down and the mountains were dry, 
life was hardly worthwhile, and in the 4th, Aberion 
Bob I think was the play but I went to Misty Repose 
who got locked in the one hole at 6 furlongs and had 
nothing left when he swung out. A. Bob won handily and 
I was 67 dollars down, the coffee was a quarter and 
the coffee girl looked like an x-prostitute, which 
she probably wasn't, and then in the 5th, Christie's 
Star took it at thirteen to one and I was 3rd, I think 
with Bold Street, I can't beat those maiden races, and 
I was 77 dollars down and bought a hot dog which cost 
50 cents and was gone in 2 bites, and then I had to 
go 20 win on Nearbrook, which won by 6 or 7 lengths 
but at 4 to 5, so I am still 65 dollars down and the 
mountains are still dry, but nobody is talking to me 
or bothering me, there's a chance. I put 15 win on 
Moving Express and 5 win on Choctaw Charlie and C.C. 
comes in at eight to one, and then I am only 37 dollars 
down, and we have the 8th race. Manta at 3 to 5 
was a rather obvious bet, I looked for something to beat 
her and came up with Hollywood Gossip. Manta went 
on by, but I had been afraid of that and had only gone 
5 win, I was 42 dollars down with one race to go, and 
I put 20 win on Vesperal and ten win on Cedar Cross, 
and Cedar Cross ran dead and Vesperal went wire to 
wire, so that was 72 down before the race, and 
you take the 84 dollar pay off and you've got 12 dollars 
profit. There you go: behind for 8 races, winner in 
the 9th. Nothing big, but bankroll intact. This comes. 


my friends, out of years of training. There are thorough- 
bred horses and thoroughbred bettors. What you do is 
stay with your plays and let them come to you. Loving 
a woman is the same way, or loving life. You've 
got to work a bit for it. In a day or 2 I'll go again 
and get off better. You'll see me that night having a 
quiet drink at the track bar as the losers run for the 
parking lot. Don't talk to me or bother me and I won't 
bother you. All right? 



a symphony orchestra. 

there is a thunderstorm, 

they are playing a Wagner overture 

and the people leave their seats under the trees 

and run inside to the pavilion 

the women giggling, the men pretending calm, 

wet cigarettes being thrown away, 

Wagner plays on, and then they are all under the 

pavilion, the birds even come in from the trees 

and enter the pavilion and then it is the Hungarian 

Rhapsody #2 by Lizst, and it still rains, but look, 

one man sits alone in the rain 

listening, the audience notices him. they turn 

and look, the orchestra goes about its 

business, the man sits in the night in the rain, 

listening, there is something wrong with him, 

isn't there? 

he came to hear the 



the colored birds 

it is a highrise apt. next door 

and he beats her at night and she screams and nobody stops it 
and I see her the next day 

standing in the driveway with curlers in her hair 
and she has her huge buttocks jammed into black 
slacks and she says, standing in the sun, 

"god damn it, 24 hours a day in this place, I never go anywhere!" 

then he comes out, proud, the little matador, 
a pail of shit, his belly hanging over his bathing trunks — 
he might have been a handsome man once, might have, 
now they both stand there and he says, 

"I think I'm goin' for a swim." 
she doesn't answer and he goes to the pool and 
jumps into the fishless, sandless water, the peroxide-codein 

and I stand by the kitchen window drinking coffee 
trying to unboil the fuzzy, stinking picture — 
after all, you can't live elbow to elbow to people without 
wanting to 

draw a number on them. 

every time my toilet flushes they can hear it. every time they 
go to bed I can hear them. 

soon she goes inside and then comes out with 2 colored birds 
in a cage. I don't know what they are. they don't talk, they 
just move a little, seeming to twitch their tail-feathers and 
shit, that's all they do. 
she stands there looking at them. 

he comes out: the little tuna, the little matador, out of the pool, 
a dripping unbeautiful white, the cloth of his wet suit gripping, 
"get those birds in the house!" 

"but the birds need sun!" 

"I said, get those birds in the house!" 

"the birds are gonna die!" 

"you listen to me, I said, GET THOSE BIRDS IN THE HOUSE!" 
she bends and lifts them, her huge buttocks in the black slacks 
looking so sad. 

he slams the door behind them, then I hear it. 


she screams 


she screams 


then: BAM! 

and she screams. 

I pour another coffee and decide that that's a new 

one: he usually only beats her at 

night, it takes a man to beat his wife night and 

day. although he doesn't look like much 

he's one of the few real men around 



another lousy 10 percenter 

I have read your stuff with 
sharp inter. . . 

he said, 
falling forward 
and knocking over his wine. 

get that bum 

OUTA here! screamed my old 

but ma, I said, he's my 
agent'. got a joint in 
Plaza Square ! 

well, kiss my bubs, she said. 

(she poured wine 
all around, 
the bat.) 

I've represented, he said, 

raisen his head, somerset mawn, ben heck 

and tomas carylillie. 

an' as you might 'ave surmised, 'e said, 
mah cut, daddy-o, is ten percent'. 

'is haid fell 

Ma? I asked, who's 

Somerset Maun\ she answered, 
yo hashole'. 


making it 

ignore all possible concepts and possibilities — 

ignore Beethoven, the spider, the damnation of Faust — 

just make it, babe, make it: 

a house a car a belly full of beans 

pay your taxes 


and if you can't fuck 

make money but don't work too 
hard — make somebody else pay to 
make it — and 

don't smoke too much but drink enough to 

relax, and 

stay off the streets 

wipe your ass real good 

use a lot of toilet paper 

it's bad manners to let people know you shit or 
could smell like it 
if you weren't 



ol' bukowski 

I hold to the edge of the table 
with my belly dangling over my 

and I glare at the lampshade 

the smoke clearing 


North Hollywood 

the boys put their muskets down 
lift high their fish-green beer 

as I fall forward off the couch 
kiss rug hairs like cunt 

close as I've been in a 
long time. 


the poetry reading 

at high noon 

at a small college near the beach 

the sweat running down my arms 
a spot of sweat on the table 
I flatten it with my finger 
blood money blood money 

my god they must think I love this like the others 

but it's for bread and beer and rent 

blood money 

I'm tense lousy feel bad 

poor people I'm failing I'm failing 

a woman gets up 
walks out 
slams the door 

a dirty poem 

somebody told me not to read dirty poems 

it's too late. 

my eyes can't see some lines 
I read it 
out — 

desperate trembling 

they can't hear my voice 
and I say, 

I quit, that's it. I'm 

and later in my room 
there's scotch and beer: 
the blood of a coward. 

this then 

will be my destiny: 

scrabbling for pennies in dark tiny halls 


reading poems I have long since become tired 

and I used to think 

that men who drove busses 

or cleaned out latrines 

or murdered men in alleys were 



slim killers 

there are 4 guys at the door 
all 6 feet four 
and checking in at 
around 210 pounds, 
slim killers, 
come in, I say, 

and they walk in with their drinks 

and circle the old man — 

so you're Bukowski, eh? 

yeh, you fucking killers, what do you 


well, we don't have a car 

and Lee needs a ride to this nightspot 

in Hollywood. 

let's go, I say. 

we get into my car 

all of us drunk, and 

somebody in back says, 

we've been reading your poetry a long time, 

Bukowski, and I say, 

I've been writing it a long time, 
kid. we dump Lee at the nightspot 
then stop off for enough beer and cigars 
to demolish the 

back at my place I sit with the killers and 
we drink and smoke, 
it is somehow enjoyable. 

I find I can outdrink and outsmoke them 
but I realize that in areas such as fights on 
the front lawn 
my day is done. 

the motherfuckers are just getting too young and 
too big. 

after they pass out 

I give each of them a pillow and a blanket 

and make sure all the cigars are 


in the morning they were just 3 big kids 
untrapped, a couple of them 


heaving in the bathroom, 
an hour later 
they were gone. 

readers of my poems 
I can't say that 
I disliked them. 


the last days of the suicide kid 

1 can see myself now 

after all these suicide days and nights, 
being wheeled out of one of those sterile rest homes 
(of course, this is only if I get famous and lucky) 
by a subnormal and bored nurse. . . 
there I am sitting upright in my wheelchair. . . 
almost blind, eyes rolling backward into the dark part of my 

for the mercy of death. . . 

"Isn't it a lovely day, Mr. Bukowski?" 

"O, yeah, yeah. 

the children walk past and I don't even exist 
and lovely women walk by 
with big hot hips 

and warm buttocks and tight hot everything 
praying to be loved 
and I don't even 
exist. . . 

"It's the first sunlight we've had in 3 days, 

Mr. Bukowski." 

"Oh, yeah, yeah." 

there I am sitting upright in my wheelchair, 
myself whiter than this sheet of paper, 

brain gone, gamble gone, me, Bukowski, 

"Isn't it a lovely day, Mr. Bukowski?" 

"O, yeah, yeah. . ." pissing in my pajamas, slop drooling out of 
my mouth. 

2 young schoolboys run by — 


"Hey, did you see that old guy?" 

"Christ, yes, he made me sick!" 

after all the threats to do so 

somebody else has committed suicide for me 

at last. 

the nurse stops the wheelchair, breaks a rose from a nearby 

puts it in my hand. 

I don't even know 

what it is. it might as well be my pecker 
for all the good 
it does. 


bang bang 

absolutely sesamoid 

said the skeleton 

shoving his chalky foot 

upon my desk, 

and that was it, 

bang bang, 

he looked at me, 

and it was my bone body 

and I was what remained, 

and there was a newspaper 

on my desk 

and somebody folded the newspaper 
and I folded, 

I was the newspaper 
under somebody's arm 
and the sheet of me 
had eyes 

and I saw the skeleton 

and just before the door closed 

I saw a man who looked 

partly like Napoleon, 

partly like Hitler, 

fighting with my skeleton, 

then the door closed 

and we went down the steps 

and outside 

and I was under 

the arm 

of a fat little man 
who knew nothing 
and I hated him 
for his indifference 
to fact, how I hated him 
as he unfolded me 
in the subway 
and I fell against the back 
of an old woman. 


5 men in black passing my window 

5 men in black passing my window 
it's Sunday 

they've been to church. 

5 men in black passing my window; 
they're between 40 and 60 
each with a little smile on his face 
like a tarantula. 

they're without women; 

I am too. 

look at them, 

it's the way they walk by fives — 
no two together, 
not speaking, 
just the little smiles. 

each has done his horrible thing 
during the week — 

fired a stockboy, stolen from a partner; 
cowardly horrible little men 
passing my window. 

5 men in black with little 

I could machinegun them 

without feeling 


bury them without a tear: 
death of all these things 


the poet's muse 

there was one 

made a thousand dollars 

one day 

in a town no larger than 
El Paso 

jumping taxies between 
universities and ladies' 

hell, you can't blame him; 
I've worked for $16 a week, 
quit, and lived a month on 

his wife is suing for divorce 
and wants $200 a week 

he has to stay famous and 



I see his work 



god I got the sad blue blues, 
this woman sat there and she 

are you really Charles 

and I said 

forget that 
I do not feel good 
I've got the sad sads 
all I want to do is 
fuck you 

and she laughed 

she thought I was being 


and O I just looked up her long slim legs of heaven 
I saw her liver and her quivering intestine 
I saw Christ in there 
jumping to a folk-rock 

all the long lines of starvation within me 

and I walked over 

and grabbed her on the couch 

ripped her dress up around her face 

and I didn't care 

rape or the end of the earth 

one more time 

to be there 




her panties were on the 

and my cock went in 

my cock my god my cock went in 

I was Charles 


story and poem 

look, he said, that story, 
everybody knew it was me. 

by god, I said, are you still 
hacking at that? 

I thought you were going to write a 
story exposing me? 
what happened to that? 

you didn't have to write that 
story about me! 

forget it, I said, it's not 

he leaped and slammed the door; 

the glass didn't break 

but the curtain rod and curtain 


I tried to finish a one-act play 
gave up 

and went to bed. 
the phone rang. 

listen, he said, when I came over 
I had no idea I'd act like 

it's o.k., I said, 

I leaned back to sleep and I 

now I'll probably write a poem about 

there seems to be no way out, I thought, 
everybody is always angry about the truth 
even though they claim to 
believe in it. 

I slept and wrote the poem 
in the morning. 


and the moon and the stars 
and the world: 

long walks at 
night — 

that's what's good 

for the 


peeking into windows 

watching tired 


trying to fight 


their beer-maddened 


get the nose 

comfrock, you motherfuck 
get up off your crazy knees 
and I'll belt you down 
again — 

what's that? 

you say I eat stem pipes? 

I'll kill you! 

stop crying, god damn. 

all right, we dumped your car into the sea 

and raped your daughter 

but we are only extending the possibilities of a working 

realism, shut up!, I said 

any man must be ready for anything and 

if he isn't then he isn't a 

man a goat a note or a plantleaf, 

you shoulda known the entirety of the trap, asshole, 

love means eventual pain 

victory means eventual defeat 

grace means eventual slovenliness, 

there's no way 

out. . .you see, you 


hey, Mickey, hold his head up 
want to break his nose with this pipe. . . 
god damn, I almost forgot the 

death is every second, punk. 

the calendar is death, the sheets are death, you put on your 

stockings: death, buttons on your shirt are death. 

lace sportshirts are death, don't you smell it? temperature is 

death, little girls are death, free coupons are death, carrots are 

death, didn't you 


o.k.. Mack, we got the nose. 

no, not the balls, too much bleeding. 

what was he when ? oh, yeah, he used to be a cabby 

we snatched him from his cab 

right off Madison, destroyed his home, his car, raped his 

12 year old daughter, it was beautiful, burned his wife with 


look at his eyes 

begging mercy... 


my landlady and my landlord 

56, she leans 
in the kitchen 
2:25 a. 

same red 
holes in 

cook him something to 


he says 

from the 

same red 


3 years ago 
we broke down a tree 


after he caught me 



beer by the 

we drink 

bad beer 
by the 

she gets up 

begins to 


all night 
we sings songs 
songs from 1925 a. 
d. to 



1939 a. 

we talk about 
short skirts 
Cadillacs the 

Republican Administration 

the depression 





you son of a bitch, 
she says. 


I lean forward and 


bad night 

Bartenders are human too 
and when he reached for the baseball bat 
the little Italian hit him in the face 
with a bottle 

and several whores screamed. 

I was just coming out 

of the men's room 

when I saw the bartender 

get off the floor 

and open the cigar box 

to get the gun, 

and I turned around 

and went out back, 

and the Italian 

must have argued poorly 

because I heard the shot 

just as I got 

the car door open. 

I drove down the alley 
and turned East on 7th st., 
and I hadn't gone a block 
before a cop pulled me over. 

You trying to get killed? 
he asked. Turn your lights 

He was a big fat one and he 
kept pushing his helmet 
further and further 
on the back of his head. 

I took the ticket and then 
drove down to Union. I 
parked outside the Reno Hotel 
and went downstairs 
to Harry's. 


It was quiet there, only 
a big redhead, bigger 
than the cop. 

She called me Honey 
and I ordered 2. 


hogs in the sky 

the territory of the diamond and the territory of the 
cross and the territory of the spider and the territory of 
the butcher 

divided by the territory of you and me 
subtracted from the territory of mathematical 

multiplied by those tombstones in the 

just going on 

is a greater gut-miracle than the life-death cycle 
itself, I mean 

going on against uselessness — 

that's different than living, 

say, the way a fly lives; 

the brain gives us enough light to know 

that living is only an artful sacrifice 

at best, at worst, it's 

hogs in the sky. 

the territory of the darning needle 

the territory of the mustard jar 

the territory of mad dogs and love gone stale 

the territory of you and me 

each evening bent like the point of a thumb tack 
that will no longer stick 

each kiss a hope of returning to the first kiss 
each fuck the same 

each person nailed against diminishing 

we are slaves to hopes that have run to 


as old age 

arrives on schedule. 

the territory of meeting and leaving 
the territory of you and me 
death arrived on schedule on a 


Sunday afternoon, and, 
as always, 

it was easier than we thought 
it would be. 


the white poets 

the white poets usually knock quite early 

and keep knocking and ringing 

ringing and knocking 

even though all the shades are down; 

finally I arise with my hangover 

figuring such persistency 

must mean good fortune, a prize of some 

sort — female or monetary, 

"aw right! aw right!" I shout 

looking for something to cover my ugly 

naked body, sometimes I must vomit first, 

then gargle; the gargle only makes me vomit again. 

I forget it — go to the door — 


"you Bukowski?" 

"yeh. come in." 

we sit and look at each other — 
he very vigorous and young — 
latest blooming clothes — 
all colors and silk — 
face like a weasel — 

"you don't remember me?" he 


"I was here before, you were rather short, you didn't like my 

"there are plenty of reasons for not liking 

"try these." 

he put them on me. they were flatter than the paper they were 

upon, there wasn't a tick or a 
flare, not a sound. I'd never read 

"uh," I said, "uh-uh." 

"you mean you don't LIKE 

"there's nothing there — it's like a pot of evaporated piss." 


he took the papers, stood up and walked 

around, "look, Bukowski. I'll put some broads from Malibu on 

you, broads like you've never 


"oh yeah, baby?" I asked. 

"yeah, yeah," he 

and ran out the 

his Malibu broads were like his 
poems: they 
never arrived. 


the black poets 

the black poets 

come to my door — 

"you Bukowski?" 

"yeh. come in." 

they sit and look around at the 
destroyed room 
and at 

they hand me their poems. 

I read 

"no," I say and hand them 

"you don't like 


'"roi Jones came down to see us at our 

"I hate," I say, 


". . .Leroi Jones, Ray Bradbury, lots of big 
boys. . .they said this stuff was 

"it's bad poetry, man. they are powdering your 

"there's this big film-writer too. he started the whole 
idea: Watts Writers' Workshop." 

"ah, god, don't you seel they are tickling your 
assholes! you should have burned the whole town 


down! I'm sick of it!" 

"you just don't understand 
the poems..." 

"I do, they are rhymers, full of 
platitudes, you write bad 

"look muthafucka, I been on the radio, I been printed in the L.A. 


"well, that happened to 


"o.k., muthafucka, you ain't seen the last of 

I suppose I haven't, and it's useless to tell you that I am not 




that's when the whole subject becomes 




no faces 
no faces 
at all 

laughing at nothing — 
let me tell you 

1 have drunk in skidrow rooms with 

imbecile winos 

whose cause was better 

whose eyes still held some light 

whose voices retained some sensibility, 

and when the morning came 

we were sick but not ill, 

poor but not deluded, 

and we stretched in our beds and rose 

in the late afternoons 

like millionaires. 



the bus driver grins while sweating in the heat 

of the plateglass windshield, 

he doesn't have a chance — 

only Hollywood Boulevard, an impossible sun 

and an impossible timetable, 

there are so many without a chance. 

I realize that there is very little chance 
for any of 

us. poetry won't save us or a job won't save us, 

a good job or a bad 


we take a little bit and hang onto that until it is 

gongs ring, dances begin, there are holidays and 
celebrations. . . 

we try to cheat the bad dream. . . 

poetry, you whore, who will go to any man and then 

leave him... 

the bus driver has Hollywood Boulevard 
I sit next to a fat lady who lays her dead thigh 
against me. 

there is a tiny roll of sweat behind one of the bus driver's 

ears, he is ashamed to brush it 


the people look ahead or read or look out their 

the tiny roll of sweat begins to roll 
it rolls along behind the ear 
then down the neck, 
then it's 

Vine street, says the bus driver, 

this is Vine 


he's right, at last, what a marvelous thing. 

I get off at Vine Street. I need a drink or something 

to eat. I don't care about the bus 

anymore, it is a 

rejected poem. I don't need it 


there will be more busses. 


I decide upon something to eat 

with a drink as 


I walk out of the dark and into the dark 

and sit down and 



the painter 

he came up on the porch 
with a grinning subnormal type 
and they stood there 
drunk on wine. 

the painter had his coat wrapped around something, 
then pulled the coat away — 
it was a policeman's helmet 
complete with badge. 

"gimme 20 bucks for this," he said. 

"fuck off, man," I said, "what do I want with a 
cop's derby?" 

"ten bucks," he said. 

"did you kill him?" 

"5 bucks..." 

"what happened to that 6 grand you made 
at your art show last month?" 

"I drank it. all in the same bar." 

"and I never got a beer," I said. 

"2 bucks..." 

"did you kill him?" 

"we ganged him, punched him around a bit. . . " 
"that's chickenshit. I don't want the headpiece." 
"we're 18 cents short of a bottle, man. .." 

I gave the painter 35 cents 

keeping the chain on the door, slipping it to him 

with my fingers, he lived with his mother, 

beat his girlfriend regularly 

and really didn't paint that 

well, but I suppose a lot of obnoxious characters 

work their way into 


I'm working on it myself. 


the inquisitor 

in the bathtub rereading Celine's 
Journey to the End of the Night 
the phone rings 
and I get out 
grab a towel. 

some guy from SMART SET, 

he wants to know what's in my mailbox 

how my life has been 


I tell him there isn't anything in the 

mailbox or the 


he thinks that I'm holding 
back. I hope that 
I am. 


my friend william 

my friend William is a fortunate man: 
he lacks the imagination to suffer 

he kept his first job 
his first wife 

can drive a car 50,000 miles 
without a brake job 

he dances like a swan 

and has the prettiest blankest eyes 

this side of El Paso 

his garden is a paradise 

the heels of his shoes are always level 

and his handshake is firm 

people love him 

when my friend William dies 

it will hardly be from madness or cancer 

he'll walk right past the devil 
and into heaven 

you'll see him at the party tonight 


over his martini 

blissful and delightful 
as some guy 
fucks his wife in the 


300 poems 

look, he said, I've written 
300 poems in 2 

and he handed me the 
stack and I 

00 oo. 

a young girl 
walked up 

and handed him a plate of 

corn and meat 

in his cottage 

by the beach 

and the sea rolled in 

and I turned the 



I've been drinking 

he said 

and writing 

and the young girl said 

is there anything else 

1 can get 

he was rich and I was poor 

and the sea rolled in 

and I turned the 



what do you think? 

he asked? 

and I said, 

well, some of 


but I didn't 


later I walked 
outside. I walked down 
the sand to where the sand got 
wet and I looked at the water and 
the moon 


and then I turned around 
and I walked up to the 
boardwalk and I thought, 
oo oo. 


lifting weights at 2 a.m. 

queers do this 
or is it that you're 
afraid to die? 
biceps, triceps, forceps, 
what are you going to do 
with muscles? 

well, muscles please the ladies 
and keep the bullies 
at bay — 


is it worth it? 

is it worth the collected works 
of Balzac? 

or a 3 week vacation 
in Spain? 

or, is it another way of 

if you got paid to do it, 
you'd hate it. 

if a man got paid to make love, 
he'd hate it. 

still, one needs the 

exercise — 

this writing game: 

only the brain and soul get 


quit your bitching and 

do it. 

while other people are 

you're lifting a mountain 
with rivers of poems 
running off. 



my little famous bleeding elbows 
my knotty knees (especially) and 
even my balls 
hairy and wasted. 

these blue evenings of walking past buildings 
where Jews pray beautifully about seasons I 
know nothing of 
and would leave me alone 

with the roaches and ants climbing my dying body 
in some place 
too real to touch. 



Americans don't know what tragedy is — 

a little 6.5 earthquake can set them to chattering 

like monkeys — 

a piece of chinaware broken, 

the Union Rescue Mission falls down — 

6 a.m. 

they sit in their cars 
they're all driving around — 
where are they going? 

a little excitement has broken into their 
canned lives 

stranger stands next to stranger 
chattering gibberish fear 
anxious fear 
anxious laughter. . . 

my baby, my flowerpots, my ceiling 
my bank account 

this is just a tickler 
a feather 

and they can't bear it. . . 

suppose they bombed the city 

as other cities have been bombed 

not with an a-bomb 

but with ordinary blockbusters 

day after day, 

every day 

as has happened 

in other cities of the world? 

if the rest of the world could see you today 
their laughter would bring the sun to its knees 
and even the flowers would leap from the ground 
like bulldogs 

and chase you away to where you belong 

wherever that is, 

and who cares where it is 

as long as it's somewhere away from 



the good life at o'hare airport 

3 hour wait at the airport in 
Chicago, surrounded by killers 
I found a table alone 
and had a scotch and water 
when 4 preachers sat down, 
and look here, said one of them, 
looking at a newspaper, 
here's a guy drunk, ran through a 
wall, killed one person, injured 4. 
if I was him, said another. 

I'd commit suicide. 

I ordered a large beer 

and sat there reading my own novel. 

look here, said the one with the paper, 

here's a guy, no, two guys, 

tried to hijack a liquor truck, 

they were so dumb they didn't even know 

it was only carrying wine, didn't even 

break the seal, bound the driver 

and then stopped for coffee, the driver 

leaned on the horn and a cop car came by 

and that was it. they went in and got 

those 2 guys. 

any 2 guys that dumb, said another, 

they sure have it coming. 

look sweetie, said another to the waitress, 

we don't want anything to drink, we don't drink, 

but we could sure use 4 

coffees, and haven't I seen you someplace before, 
hee hee hee? 

give me another beer, I told the 

waitress. I drink, and I've never seen you anyplace 


the waitress came back with 4 cups of coffee 

and the beer, and I sat there reading my own novel 

as the 4 preachers sat there 

whirling their spoons around their cups, 

clink clink clink 

and I thought, this isn't a bad novel 

this isn't a bad novel 

at all, but the next one is going to be 


better, and I lifted my old beer and finished it, 

and then drank some of the new 

one, and clink clink clink 

went the spoons against the cups 

and one of the preachers coughed 

and everybody was unhappy but 



the golfers 

driving through the park 

I notice men and women playing golf 

driving in their powered carts 

over billiard table lawns, 

they are my age 

but their bodies are fat 

their hair grey 

their faces waffle batter, 

and I remember being startled by my own face 

scarred, and mean as red ants 

looking at me from a department store mirror 

and the eyes mad mad mad 

I drive on and start singing 

making up the sound 

a war chant 

and there is the sun 

and the sun says, good, I know you, 

and the steering wheel is humorous 

and the dashboard laughs, 

see, the whole sky knows 

I have not lied to anything 

even death will have exits 

like a dark theatre. 

I stop at a stop sign and 

as fire burns the trees and the people and the city 

I know that there will be a place to go 

and a way to go 

and nothing need ever be 




spider on the wall: 
why do yon take 
so long ? 

the mockingbird 

the mockingbird had been following the cat 
all summer 

mocking mocking mocking 

teasing and cocksure; 

the cat crawled under rockers on porches 

tail flashing 

and said something angry to the mockingbird 
which I didn't understand. 

yesterday the cat walked calmly up the driveway 

with the mockingbird alive in its mouth, 

wings fanned, beautiful wings fanned and flopping, 

feathers parted like a woman's legs, 

and the bird was no longer mocking, 

it was asking, it was praying 

but the cat 

striding down through centuries 
would not listen. 

I saw it crawl under a yellow car 
with the bird 

to bargain it to another place, 
summer was over. 


ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha 

monkey feet 

small and blue 

walking toward you 

as the back of a building falls off 

and an airplane chews the white sky, 

doom is like the handle of a pot, 

it's there, 

know it, 

have ice in your tea, 

have children, visit your 

do not scream at night 
even if you feel like screaming, 
count ten 

make love to your wife, 
or if your wife isn't there 
if there isn't anybody there 
count 20, 

get up and walk to the kitchen 

if you have a kitchen 

and sit there sweating 

at 3 a.m. in the morning 

monkey feet 

small and blue 

walking toward you. 


a fine day and the world looks good 

someday the lion will 
walk in 

he'll grab an arm 
just above the elbow 
my old arm 

my wrinkled dice-shooting arm 

I'll scream 

in my bedroom 

I won't understand at all 

and he'll be 

too strong for me, 

and people will walk in — 

a wife, a girlfriend, a bastard son, 

a stranger from down the street 

and a 



they will 

and the lion won't bother them 

and then my arm will be 

the doctor will put the 
stethoscope to my chest 
ask me to cough 

he will turn to the others and 

there's a chance 
but I think he's going 
under — shock and loss of 

hell, I know that, 
and now the lion has my 
other arm 
I try to knee him 

his tail knocks a picture off the wall 


a picture of a Dutch windmill and a 

it is a fine day 

the world looks good 

I feel I'd like to be 

swimming or fishing or sleeping 

under a tree 

but the lion will not 

let go 


my other arm is 

the people kneel to 

all but the 

the lion is clawing at my 

trying to get at the 

I ask the doctor to light me a 
cigarette and 
he does 

then the 
priest walks 

the lion does not bother the priest 

I'd heard about the 

about how sometimes he was fast or sometimes he was 

I knew he usually preferred older people 
although sometimes he even ate 


babies or young men and 

god o mighty! save me! save me 
I scream 

but the people do not 

they let the lion 
eat me 

the priest mumbles incantations I do not 

the doctor turns his back and looks 
out the window 

it is the month of July 

with the taste of butter in the air 

and I am rapidly becoming a 

keepsake thing 

as before my eyes I see the 

moth, butcherbird, dove, vulture and 



the lion eats my heart 

and the doctor puts the sheet over my 


and it is early in the 


very early in the 


and decent people are still 
in bed 

most of them asleep with bad breath 
and very few of them making 

and most of them 
not like me 



sun-stroked women 
without men 

on a Santa Monica monday; 
the men are working or in jail 
or insane; 

one girl floats in a rubber suit, 

houses slide off the edges of cliffs 

and down into the sea. 

the bars are empty 

the lobster eating houses are empty; 

it's a recession, they say, 

the good days are 


you can't tell an unemployed man 

from an artist any more, 

they all look alike 

and the women look the same, 

only a little more desperate. 

we stop at a hippie hole 
in Topanga Canyon. . . 
and wait, wait, wait; 

the whole area of the canyon and the beach 

is listless 



the wood has no fire 
the sea is dirty 
the hills are dry 
the temples have no bells 
love has no bed 

sun-stroked women without men 
one sailboat 
life drowned. 


3:16 and one half... 

here I'm supposed to be a great poet 
and I'm sleepy in the afternoon 
here I am aware of death like a giant bull 
charging at me 

and I'm sleepy in the afternoon 

here I'm aware of wars and men fighting in the ring 

and I'm aware of good food and wine and good women 

and I'm sleepy in the afternoon 

I'm aware of a woman's love 

and I'm sleepy in the afternoon, 

I lean into the sunlight behind a yellow curtain 
I wonder where the summer flies have gone 
I remember the most bloody death of Hemingway 
and I'm sleepy in the afternoon. 

some day I won't be sleepy in the afternoon 
some day I'll write a poem that will bring volcanoes 
to the hills out there 

but right now I'm sleepy in the afternoon 

and somebody asks me, "Bukowski, what time is it?" 

and I say, "3:16 and a half." 

I feel very guilty, I feel obnoxious, useless, 

demented, I feel 

sleepy in the afternoon, 

they are bombing churches, o.k., that's o.k., 

the children ride ponies in the park, o.k., that's o.k., 

the libraries are filled with thousands of books of knowledge, 

great music sits inside the nearby radio 

and I am sleepy in the afternoon, 

I have this tomb within myself that says, 
ah, let the others do it, let them win, 
let me sleep, 
wisdom is in the dark 
sweeping through the dark like brooms. 

I'm going where the summer flies have gone, 
try to catch me. 


the rat 

with one punch, at the age of 16 and 1/2, 

I knocked out my father, 

a cruel shiny bastard with bad breath, 

and I didn't go home for some time, only now and then 

to try to get a dollar from 

dear momma. 

it was 1937 in Los Angeles and it was a hell of a 

I ran with these older guys 

but for them it was the same: 

mostly breathing gasps of hard air 

and robbing gas stations that didn't have any 

money, and a few lucky among us 

worked part-time as Western Union messenger 


we slept in rented rooms that weren't rented — 
and we drank ale and wine 
with the shades down 
being quiet quiet 

and then awakening the whole building 
with a fistfight 

breaking mirrors and chairs and lamps 
and then running down the stairway 
just before the police arrived 
some of us soldiers of the future 

running through the empty starving streets and alleys of 

Los Angeles 

and all of us 

getting together later 

in Pete's room 

a small cube of space under a stairway, there we were, 

packed in there 

without women 

without cigarettes 

without anything to drink, 

while the rich pawed away at their many 

choices and the young girls let 



the same girls who spit at our shadows as we 
walked past. 

it was a hell of a 

3 of us under that stairway 
were killed in World War II. 

another one is now manager of a mattress 

me? I'm 30 years older, 

the town is 4 or 5 times as big 

but just as rotten 

and the girls still spit on my 

shadow, another war is building for another 

reason, and I can hardly get a job now 

for the same reason I couldn't then: 

I don't know anything, I can't do 

sex? well, just the old ones knock on my door after 
midnight. I can't sleep and they see the lights and are 

the old ones, their husbands no longer want them, 
their children are gone, and if they show me enough good 
leg (the legs go last) 

I go to bed with 

so the old women bring me love and I smoke their cigarettes 
as they 
talk talk talk 

and then we go to bed again and 

I bring them love 

and they feel good and 


until the sun comes 
up, then we 

it's a hell of a 



I was up under the attic and it was almost summer 
and I sat around drinking wine 
and watching the hot pigeons suffer and fuck 
on the hot roof 

and I listened to sounds on my radio and 
drank the wine 

and I sat there naked and sweating 

and wishing I were back in the journalism class 

where everybody was a 


it was even hot when I got thrown out of there 

for non-payment of rent and I signed on with a 

track gang going West — the windows wouldn't open 

and the seats and sides of the cars were 100 years old with 

dust, they gave us cans of food but no openers 

and we busted the cans against the side of the seats 

ate raw hash, raw lima beans 

the water tasted like candlewick 

and I leaped out under a line of trees in the middle of 

Texas, some small town, and the police found me asleep 

on a park bench and put me in a cell with only a crapper, 

no water, no sink, and they questioned me about robberies and 


under a hot light 

and getting nothing 

they drove me to the next town 17 miles away 
the big one kicked me in the ass 
and after a good night's sleep 
I went into the local library 

where the young lady librarian seemed to take an interest in 

reading habits 

and later we went to bed 

and I woke up with teethmarks all over me and I said, 

Christ, watch it, baby, you might give me 

you're an idiot, she said. 

I suppose that I 



strange eyes in my head 

I'm the coward and the fool and the clown 

and I listen to a man telling me that I can get a 

restaurant guide and an expanding cultural events calendar 

I'm just not here today 

I don't want restaurants and expanding cultural events 
I want an old shack in the hills 
rent free 

with enough to eat and drink until I die 

strange eyes in my head 
strange ways 

no chance 



oh my god, oh my dear god 
that we should end up 
on the end of a rope 
in some slimy bathroom 
far from Paris, 
far from thighs that care, 
our feet hanging down 
above the simplicity 
of stained tile, 
telephone ringing, 
letters unopened, 
dogs pissing in the street. . . 

greater men than I 

have failed to agree with Life. 

I wish you could have met my brother, Marty: 
vicious, intelligent, endearing, 
quite well. 


the passing of a dark gray moment 

Standing here, 
doing what? 
as exposed as an azalea 
to a bee. 

Where's the axman, 
where's it done? 

They tiptoe round 
on rotting wood, 
peeking into shelves. 

Where's the sun, 
where's the sea? 

The god's are gone! 

Everything hums 
with humble severity. . . 
they wipe their faces 
with cotton and rags 
— and wait for morning. 

Where's the fire, 
where's the burn? 

Rain-spouts\ and rats 
printing dirge-notes in ashes. . . 
a voice plows my brain: 

"the gods are dead." 

Where's the time, 
where's the place? 

Somewhat eased, extinguished, 
I listen behind me 
to my bird eating seed, 
hoping he'll chitter 
and peep some pink 
back into white elbows. 


I love that bird, 

the simple needing of seed, so clear: 

A god can be anything 
that's needed right away. 

The sound of aircraft overhead 
winging a man. . . 
stronger now, not yet pure, 
but moving away the dread. 


consummation of grief 

I even hear the mountains 

the way they laugh 

up and down their blue sides 

and down in the water 

the fish cry 

and all the water 

is their tears. 

I listen to the water 

on nights I drink away 

and the sadness becomes so great 

I hear it in my clock 

it becomes knobs upon my dresser 

it becomes paper on the floor 

it becomes a shoehorn 

a laundry ticket 

it becomes 

cigarette smoke 

climbing a chapel of dark vines. . . 

it matters little 

very little love is not so bad 
or very little life 

what counts 
is waiting on walls 
I was born for this 

I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead. 


those sons of bitches 

the dead come running sideways 

holding toothpaste ads, 

the dead are drunk on New Year's eve 

satisfied at Christmas 

thankful on Thanksgiving 

bored on the 4th of July 

loafing on Labor Day 

confused at Easter 

cloudy at funerals 

clowning at hospitals 

nervous at birth; 

the dead shop for stockings and shorts 
and belts and rugs and vases and 

the dead dance with the dead 
the dead sleep with the dead 
the dead eat with the dead. 

the dead get hungry looking at hogs' heads. 

the dead get rich 
the dead get deader 

those sons of bitches 

this graveyard above the ground 

one tombstone for the mess, 

I say: 

humanity, you never had it 
from the beginning. 


the hunt 

by god, it was a long day 

the 3 horse broke down 

the cook burned his hand, 

e. pitts was recalled from the sandlots 

because the regular back had a 


and the grunion ran again 

through the oily sea 

to plant eggs on shore and be caught 

by unemployed drunks 

with flopping canvas hats 

and no woman at all. 

offshore you could see the lights of a 

passing yacht 

with a party on board, 

lots of girls and jokes and the 


and they put the 3 horse in 

the truck, carried him away from the 

crowd and shot 

him, little things like that and other 

are what sometimes create unemployed drunks 

with flopping canvas hats, 

sans woman, 

trying to grab for 



the big fire 

I'm on fire like the cactus in the desert 
I'm on fire like the palms of an acrobat 
I'm on fire like the fangs of the spider 

I'm on fire with you and me 

I'm on fire walking into a drugstore 
I'm on fire I'm on fire 

the girl hands me my change and 
laughs at me 

I'm on fire in my bed alone 
I'm on fire with you 

I'm on fire reading a book 

about Trotsky, Hitler, Alexander the Great, 

anybody at all, any walking living dead 

human once upon the 


I'm on fire looking at the grass 

I'm on fire looking at birds sitting on telephone wires 
I'm on fire answering the phone — 

I leap straight up when it rings 
I am burning 

I'm on fire looking at velvet 
I'm on fire looking at a sleeping cat 

I am a helpless burning thing 
among other helpless burning things 

I lay on my left side and look at the tombstones 

then I lay on my right side and look at the tombstones — 

they are all 


I'm on fire putting a stamp on an envelope 

I'm on fire wrapping garbage into a newspaper 

I'm on fire with heroes and dwarfs and poverty and hope 

I'm on fire with love and anger 


I'm on fire like a bat hanging upsidedown 

like a bellboy hating the rich and smiling at their tips 

I'm on fire in a supermarket 
watching a most womanly woman 
bend over to pick up some potato salad 

I'm on fire like a scissors cutting the eyes out of the sky 
I'm on fire like onehundredthousand monkeys boiled into one 

and sobbing through centuries of 

I'm on fire like a clean sharp knife in a kitchen drawer 

I'm on fire like a beggar in India 
a beggar in New York 
a beggar in Los Angeles. . . 
the smoke and burning rises 
and the ash is crushed under. . . 

I'm on fire like the circus that went away 

the champion who quit on one knee 

all burning 

all alone 

all one 


I'm on fire like a dirty bathtub in a lonely roominghouse 
I'm on fire like the roach I kill with my shoe 

I'm on fire with men and woman and animals 
who are being tortured and mutilated in dark and 
isolated places 

I'm on fire with the armies and anti-armies 
I'm on fire with the man I hate most in the world 

I'm on fire without a chance 

the fat is in the fire, the lamb is over it 
the sacrifice seems forever 
the enduring seems forever 


the sun is on fire... 

and the glazed horizon is red 
and the weeping 
and the weeping 
and you and me 

the sun is burning everything: 

the dogs, the clouds, the icecream 

the end 

the end of the stairway 
the end of the ocean 
the last scream 

the bug in the jar 
spouts into flame 
and the inside of the skull 
gives up 
at last 

the smoke blows 


ww 2 

since fact is an artifice of fiction 

let's call this fiction so like all good boys and girls 

we can relax 

i was in frisco a dandy place with lakes or something i could see the gold 
bridge and it wasn't teeth from my window enough to drink almost always 
enough to drink 

i wrote the old man down in l.a. you might as well get a story ready for your 
god damned neighbors because i am not going to yr war 

if it were not for the war the last war you would not be here i would not have 
met your mother and you would not have been born 


the fact that i was born because of circumstances of war 

did not seem to me a proper argument to create further circumstances 

i went out and got drunk properly 

then the next morning i went down to the draft board 

a boy fainted when they took blood out of his arm and i looked at the 
needle dip into my vein and watched the red of me run up into the tube 
and felt rugged 

they looked up my ass 

and then i went in to see the sike 

u have yr shorts on backwards he told me 
i got up and switched them 

he sat there looking at me 

at first i said all right now not much do you write or paint? 


and what? I ASKED IF YOU WROTE OR PAINTED, leave me alone i told 



nothing accepted 
nothing accepted anywhere 
do you believe in the war? he asked no i said 
ARE YOU WILLING TO GO TO WAR? he asked no i said 
i am not sure there is a God 



all right he said u don't have to go 
u mean i asked the party or the war? 

either one he said you didn't think we'd understand did you? 

he wrote something on a slip of paper and folded it and stuck it to my card 
with a paperclip give them this, up the line 

he had written a hell of a lot on the slip as i walked i managed to lift the edge 
of the slip but all i cd see was 



which was news to me 

and then some guy in a uniform screamed at me 

and i walked out into 

the clear and beautiful air 

are you going to war my landlady asked me no i said bad heart 
that's too bad i'm sorry she said and i went upstairs and poured 
a good one 

bad heart bad heart bad heart have u done the wrong thing 
maybe u ought to go maybe you ought to go and walk right into it 


hell, friend they turned you down uncle sam does not want you 
you are insane 

i smiled and poured another one 

i don't know how much later but some time later i am sitting in another cheap 
room philly i am drinking a bottle of port have a record player and i am 
listening to the 2nd movement of brahms' 2nd symphony 
when there is a knock on the door 
it is a very polite knock 

and since i do not know anybody much i figure it is either 
one of the whores down at the corner in love with me 

or somebody come to give me the nobel prize 

and i opened the door and 2 big men were there and one of them said F.B.I. 
and the other one said yr under arrest 

i went over and took the needle out of brahms' arm 
we want to question u they said downtown 
all right 

u better put on a coat you might be gone some time 

we walked down the stairs and out into the street and got into the car and it 
seemed as if each window had a face hanging out of it and there was another 
guy in the back and he said keep one hand on each knee and don't move them 

we drove along a while and then 

i reached up to scratch my nose 

WATCH THAT HAND! one of them screamed 
this guy is pretty casual another one said 
i think we got a good one yep i think we got a good one 

oh lord oh christ i thought i wonder what i done 
i wonder what i done 

they took me into a room that was mostly empty except for pictures 
photos on the walls 

you see those one of them pointed voice most serious 
yes i said 

those are men who died in the service of the fbi 


they took me into another room where a man 
sat behind his desk with his shirtsleeves rolled up 





my what? 


i thought he meant i had some 
kind of secret thing i was murdering people with 


oh hell john he's dead 

NO WONDER we can't find the son of a bitch! 


i'm 4f 

4f eh? 

psycho yes 

why did you move without notifying your draft board? 
i didn't bother jesus i thought it was over 
why did you move? 

i got kicked out for being drunk all the time 
landlady said i got blood on the sheets 


look are you guys crazy i only moved around the corner 80 yards away gave 
the post office my forwarding address if i wanted to hide i could do better than 






they took me down to a small cell with toilet and sink 


no bunk no chair i stood by the window and looked out the bars 
it was Saturday morning and it was one of the main downtown 
streets and it was sunny it looked good ouside people 
walking along easily unnervous a record shop speakered its 
music onto the street i did not feel good you only begin to 
miss the simple life after it is taken away from u after u go 
into a hospital and u are on a bed maybe to die or go back 
or in a jail never knowing when or if you'll get out 
that's when you think that's when the sunshine looks good 
that's when just walking down to the corner to buy a paper 
is something like beethoven's 9th 

i was transferred to a prison a much larger prison the next day 
they put me in a cell with a little fat man who looked like 
a businessman 

he put out his hand: I am Courtney Taylor 
public enemy number one 

i shook his hand 

what are you in for? he asked 

they say i'm a draft dodger 

listen he said there's just one thing we don't like around here 
one kind we have no use for and that's the draft dodger 
honor among thieves 

what do you mean? 

I mean u fucker, 

leave me alone 
leave me alone 

if u want to kill yourself i'll tell you how he said 

i don't want to hear it i said 

all you do is take that bucket over there fill it with water 

take your shoe off put your foot in it but first bring down 

the overhead light i'll hold you on my shoulders and you can work 

the screws loose from the pipe then u bend it down take the 

globe out stick your finger in the hole yr foot in the bucket 

and yr out of here 

it sounded good to me but there was something grotesque and embarrassing 
about it somehow so i decided not to do it 


i stretched out on the bunk and pretty soon i felt things 
biting me bedbugs 

look i said do u gamble? 

what do u mean? 

i mean i said let's bet a nickel a bed bug i bet i can catch 
more than u 

they don't really come out till lights out he said 
u mean it gets worse i asked 

multiply by 30, 

have u told the guard? 

the screw? i'll tell him again 


nobody showed up 

we began playing 21 blackjack and 5 minutes later the screw 
walked in 

let's not have so much screaming and you bastards probably 
brought those things in here with you 

i got hot in a crapgame in the exercise 
yard and stayed hot 3, 4, 5 days and began to feel better i was 
making more money than i ever made on the outside we were always 
hungry there but after lights out the cook would come down with 
jello and whipcream and coffee and bits of tenderloin and i'd slip 
him a dollar or 2 and my public enemy friend stopped talking about 
the evils of celling with a 4f and just when we were beginning to 
enjoy our nickel a bedbug bets Taylor being a swindler of grand 
order couldn't resist breaking some of his in half but i being 
poetaster and counter of tombstones feeling the blade against my 
whimpering brain i i was more agile. . .and so psycho and public 
enemy number one pinched out the souls of bedbugs while the world 
grabbed its balls in more agony: ww 2 

and we forgot in our small dying to acknowledge the small nobility 
of whatever it was 

BUTTT as i wuz saying 

just as we were beginning to 
enjoy our bedbugs they rushed us out of the cell 

5 or 6 days after 

the original complaint to fumigate 

and they put me in with a polack 

or something 

old old old 


he tore up my bedsheet the first time 
i went to exercise yard to make a clothesline out of it 

and i have a very sensitive skin despite my poker face 
and the wool blankets only those who can't stand rough wool will 
know what i mean and so i told the old man 

he was always on the crapper 

puffiing on an empty pipe and all these makeshift makeshit 
clotheslines hanging about dripping polack stockings and rags 

(forget my name i am a Prussian nobleman) (this is fiction) 
isn't it) (i am getting a little bored with this and could use a 
hot piece of ass as what man cd not?) 

he wuz always on the crapper 

puffing and saying 


over and over 
then he'd laugh 

he was telling me the facts of life but all i could feel 

as the bluebirds were driven away from the white cliffs of dover 

was that wool blanket against me all and everywhere 


and the old idiot just laughed at me and for a moment i saw it 
it was possible why not my hands about that wrinkled morgue of 
flesh hoo says u can't kill what's already dead the eyes pop out 
the tongue the lungs reach for air like kittens chasing a roll of 
yarn but it was too ugly i don't think what got Dos in 
Crime and Punishment was that a single man could not judge what to 
eradicate but that he COULD and KNEW IT and it was easier to turn 
it over to God because you would finally have to eradicate 
everything including self (though u usually began with self and 
by eradicating self you eradicated the rest) and that would make God 
a failure and that would not do because if you eliminate God 
you have to come down to self and Self built in 20 or 30 or 60 years 
cannot match a 2000 year backlog of root and tradition and so Dos 
did the wise thing in admitting that he could be wrong although he 
felt right and i let the old man shit and spew tara bubu and slept 
in wool blankets 

they broke up the crap game from the tower 
the screw pointed his m.g. down 


the guy with the dice was taking too big a chunk from 

each pot and the losers were getting hot I guess i should have 

said it to the old man that way but one guy said to the furnisher 



and that was that until the screw got busy pointed his 
steel nose 

they came back for me and put me in some kind of room 
they were making out a report 

they asked me how to spell some words 
like Andernach and so forth 

i had a long red beard by then 

and they asked me why 

and i said 

have you ever had the end cell where they 
pass out one razorblade at the first cell and that same razor blade is 
used by the last man in the last cell, and have you ever celled with an 
old man whose only joy in life is eating and shitting and shaving and 
wd u take 1/3 of his joy by taking the blade and shaving FIRST? 
besides i use this red beard to fight the wool blankets with 

i believe the kid is psycho one of them said 

anyhow 3 or 4 days later 

they let me out 

only first i had to go through another physical for the army 
but once again 

i couldn't get past the sike 
and that same day 

when they let me out 

even before i tried to get 

a room i lay down in that park outside the philly library 

i got on 

my back and i felt little grass bugs crawling upon me and i let them 
crawl they were beautifully clean 

and i let the clouds come down 
into my head but the sky was a bad color it hurt my eyes it was all 
not good i began to fill up with sadness 

and i heard some girls come by 
talking and laughing and one of them tripped over my ankle 


and she said OOOh OOOH and then laughed 

and i glared 

up at them outa my red wool beard and one of them said 

and then i fell back and went back to the clouds 

until later 

clambering up out of the misery of the tomb 

i sat upon a park bench watching traffic go by 

and then it came a long caravan of trucks 

filled with good young soldiers who only wanted to live 

and i was young and watching and for a moment i loved them the crowd 

but once again they turned on me and from the first truck 

came a hissing and a cursing and then a booing a racket of vile hate 

they wanted me with them and the whole avenue filled with hot sound 

and more trucks came by slowly and it was an opera it was an 

opera of condemnation, but i had not wanted war never will and 

the gods the gods the dice had been good and i waved an arm 

and smiled somebody screamed YOU BASTARD GET OFF YOUR 


but i did not i watched them go where they were going 
i imagine the one who fainted he was in there too 

we were all 

very young i was young they were young 

but i imagine 

war being swine mob being swine 
i was not as young as they 



1 used to be a great 
traveler, even without 
money, some cities I'd say in 2 

weeks, some 3 days. . .for years I went through the 
cities, sometimes coming up against the same one 

2 or 3 times. 

now I'm here. . .not only the same city. . . 
the same apartment. . .for ten years. . . 
ten years... 

the last person in here before me was 

crazy, they carried her off 


in a big white 

sheet, and I moved 


it's all right. . .there have been various 
jobs, various women, various 

one bungles through, it seems. . . 
but it's the ants here, 

the ants here are crazy, they keep building nests 
in the bathtub drain. . .in the water basin 

it's delicious and sanitary and ugly: 

I turn on the hot water tap 
and watch them go spinning to a 
burning drowning hell. . . 
it's neat... 

but they keep coming back. . . 

more and more ants. . . 

the ants come back faster than the women. 

today I was about to do in a new 

batch, both tub and water basin, 

the phone rang, 

it was my friend Danny, he said, 
listen, you are the only real man I know. I'm 
going to kill myself. . . 
go, I said, ahead... 

she left me, he said, she left me like that, 
hardly any notice. . .1 really loved 
her. (he began to cry.) 


listen, I said, meeting a bitch is an accident, 
having one leave you is a basic reality, 
be glad you're coming up against 
basic reality. . . 

thanks, he said (sobbing), and hung 

I went back to the ants and turned on both water 

taps at 


I burned and drowned them good. 

Then the phone rang, 

listen, he said, I'm going to do it, 

I'm really going to do it. 

I hung up. 


he wrote in lonely blood 

sitting here 

at a friend's house 
I find a black book by the typer: 

Jeffers': Be Angry at the Sim. 

I think of Jeffers often, 

of his rocks and his hawks and his 


Jeffers was a real loner, 
yes, he had to write. 

I try to think of loners who don't break out 
at all 

in any fashion, 

and I think, no, that's not strong, 
somehow, that's dead. 

Jeffers was alive and a loner and 

he made his statements. 

his rocks and his hawks and his isolation 


he wrote in lonely blood 
a man trapped in a corner 
but what a corner 
fighting down to the last mark 

"I've built my rock," he sent the message to 
the lovely girl who came to his door, 

"you go build yours." 

this was the same girl who had screwed Ezra, 
and she wrote me that Jeffers sent her away 
like that. 


Jeffers was a rock who was not dead, 
his book sits to my left now as I type. 

I think of all his people crashing down 
hanging themselves, shooting themselves, 
taking poisons... 

locked away against an unbearable humanity. 
Jeffers was like his people: 
he demanded perfection and beauty 
and it was not there 

in human form, he found it in non-human 


forms. I've run out of non-human forms, 
I'm angry at Jeffers, no, 

I'm not. and if the girl comes to my door 
I'll send her away too. after all, 
who wants to follow old 


six chink fishermen 

the other night 

under a new moon 

with the cuckoo clocks wound 


they stopped 6 Chinese fishermen 
on skidrow 
San Pedro 

with 28 million dollars worth of 

in their boots. 

they say it was an old dwarf 

on a houseboat 

who painted butterflies 

on the sleeping body of his wife 

in their pitiful 


Artists, they say, sell out cheapest and most 

meanwhile, a fat man in Hong Kong 

decided to do away with Art, 

while irritated 

just to make Mr. Justice 

soil his new clean sheets 

he dialed a number 

and arranged 

the assassination of the 






and the pleasures of the past, 

remembering the Goose Girl at Hollywood Park 


red coats and trumpets 

and faces cut with knives and mistakes; 

I am ready for the final 

I have an old-time kerosene burner, 
candles, 22 cans of Campbell's soup 
and an 80 year old uncle in Andernach, 

who was once the burgermeister of that 
town I was born in 
so long ago. 

I ache all over with the melody of pain 
and people knock at my door 
come in and drink with me 
and talk, 

but they don't realize I've quit, 

have cleaned up the kitchen 

chased the mice out from under the bed 

and am making ready 

for the tallest flame of them all. 

I look at buildings and clouds and ladies, 

I read newspapers as my shoelaces break, 

I dream of matadors brave and bulls brave 
and people brave and cats brave and 
can openers brave. 

my uncle writes me in trembling hand: 

"How is your little girl, 

and is your health good? You didn't answer 

my last letter..." 

"Dear Uncle Heinrich," I answer, 

"my little girl is very clever and pretty and 
also good. I hope that you are 


happy and well. I enclose a photo 
of Marina. Answer when you are 
able. Things here are the same as they 
have always 




a sound in the brush 

the sorrow of Scibelli, 

as he turned at a sound in the brush 
and was bayonetted 

by a man 5 feet tall who didn't even know 
his name, 

who then sliced his jugular vein, 
took the gold from his teeth, 
both ears, 

then opened his wallet 

and tore up the photo of a soft-faced 

girl named 

simply, "Laura," 

who was waiting in Kansas City 

for an earless, tooth-ravished 



who just happened to die a little earlier 

than most of the rest of us, 

also for 




the wild 

once in lockup, being fingerprinted and photographed, all 

I dropped ashes from my cigarette on the floor 
and the cop got mad, he said, 

"by god, where the hell do you think you are?" 

"County jail," I said, and he said, "All right, wise guy, now you 

walk down 

that corridor and then 

take a left." 

I walked on down 

took my left and 

here it came — 

they had this beast of a thing 

in a huge cellblock, alone, alone, 

and there were wires across the bars 

it was the L.A. County drunktank 

and it was their pet 

the thing saw me 

came running 

and threw itself snarling against the bars and wire 
wanting to kill me, and I stood there and watched it, 
then spoke: 

"Cigarette? how about a smoke?" 

the thing rattled the wire and snarled a few more times 

and I pulled out a smoke. 

the thing grinned at me and I poked a cigarette through the 

put it in his lips and lit him 

"I dislike them too," I said. 

the thing grinned and bobbed its head 


the cop came and took me away 
and put me in a cell with 
5 less living. 


4th of july 

it's amazing 

the number of people who can't feel 

put 40 in a room 

squeezed against each other 

hours of lethargic talk 

and they don't 



go mad or even 

it appears as if they are waiting for 
something that will never 

they are as comfortable as chickens or 
pigs in their pens. 

one might even consider it wisdom 
if you can overlook the faces 
and the conversation. 

when the 4th is over 

and they go back to their separate holes 

then the sun will kiss me hello 

then the sidewalks will look good again. 

back in their cages 

they'll dream of the next great 


probably Labor Day 
smashing together on the freeways 
talking together 
40 in a room, 

cousins, aunts, sisters, mothers, brothers, uncles, 
sons, grandfathers, grandmothers, wives, husbands, 
lovers, friends, all the rest, 

40 in a room 

talking about nothing, 

talking about themselves. 



he got drunk and went to sleep 

in his bed 

and the fire started 

and he layed in there 


until a friend in the next room 
smelled it 
and ran in 

and tried to pull him out of the fire 
by his arms 

and the skin rolled right off the arms 

and he had to grab again 


near the bone, 

and he got him out and up 

and the guy started screaming 

and running blind, 

he hit some walls 

finally made 2 doorways 

and with half a dozen men trying 

to hold him 

he broke free 

and ran into the yeard 


still running 

he ran right into some barbed wire 
and tangled in the barbed wire 

and they had to go up 
and get him loose 
from the wire 

he lived for 3 nights and 3 

drinking and smoking 
are bad for the 


99 degrees 

September after Labor Day, 

99 degrees in Burbank, Calif. 

I am looking at a fly 

a small brown fly on a yellow curtain; 

the Mexicans would be wise enough to sleep under trees 

on a day like this 

but Americans are stricken with ambition 
they will survive as powerful and unhappy 

right now my tax money is dropping bombs 
on starving people in Asia 
as I fight the small fly that has arrived from the 
curtain by my elbow; 

I swing and miss the fly, 
neurotic American me, 

the boys who pilot those planes are nice boys, gentle, 
they kill apathetically 
with honor and grace, 
without hate. 

I know one, he is now a prof who teaches American 
Literature at a university in Oregon, 

I've been drunk with him and his wife, several times, 
so he teaches me, 
that's nice. 

99 degrees in Burbank 
and as I sit here 

any number of things are happening, 
mostly unhappy things 

like swearing mechanics with hangovers climbing under cars 
and drunken dentists pulling teeth and cursing 
and bald-headed surgeons making too much of a mess, 
and the editor of Time magazine backing his car out of the 

after an argument with his wife; 
it's 99 degrees in Burbank 
and there's a jet overhead, 

1 don't think it will bomb me, 

those Asians don't have enough tax money, 

the only clever Asians are the ones who claim they are 

Supremely Blessed, speak good English, 

grow grey thick beards plus a heavenly smile topped by 


shining eyes and 

charge $4 admit at the Shrine to 

teach placidity and non-ambition 

and screw half the intellectual girls in the city. 

it's 99 degrees in Burbank 

and those who will survive will survive 

and those who will die will die, 

and most will dry up and look like toads eating hamburger 
sandwiches at noon, 

I don't know what to do — 
send money and the way, 
be kind to me, 

I like it 

effortless, sweet and easy, remember, 

I never bombed 
anybody, I 
can't even kill this 



happy new year 

I have them timed — 

first the nurse will arrive in her nice 

yellow automobile — 4:10 p.m. — 

she always shows me a lot of 

leg — and I always look — 

then think — 

keep your leg, baby. 

then, after that, 

there's the man who arrives 

and takes his bulldog 

out to crap 

about the time I'm out to mail 
my letters. We test each other, 
never speak — I live without working, 
he works without 

I can see us some day 
battling on his front lawn — 
he screaming, "you bum!" 
and myself screaming back: 

"lackey! slave!" 
as his bulldog chews my leg 
and the neighbors pelt me 
with stones. 

I guess I better get interested in 
Mexican jumping beans 
and the Rose Bowl 


the shoelace 

a woman, a 
tire that's flat, a 
disease, a 

desire; fears in front of you, 
fears that hold so still 
you can study them 
like pieces on a 

it's not the large things that 

send a man to the 

madhouse, death he's ready for, or 

murder, incest, robbery, fire, flood. . . 

no, it's the continuing series of small tragedies 

that send a man to the 


not the death of his love 

but a shoelace that snaps 

with no time left. . . 

the dread of life 

is that swarm of trivialities 

that can kill quicker than cancer 

and which are always there — 

license plates or taxes 

or expired driver's license, 

or hiring or firing, 

doing it or having it done to you, or 


speeding tickets 

rickets or crickets or mice or termites or 

roaches or flies or a 

broken hook on a 

screen, or out of gas 

or too much gas, 

the sink's stopped-up, the landlord's drunk, 
the president doesn't care and the governor's 

lightswitch broken, mattress like a 

$105 for a tune-up, carburetor and fuel pump at 
Sears Roebuck; 


and the phone bill's up and the market's 

and the toilet chain is 

and the light has burned out — 

the hall light, the front light, the back light, 

the inner light; it's 

darker than hell 

and twice as 


then there's always crabs and ingrown toenails 
and people who insist they're 
your friends; 

there's always that and worse; 
leaky faucet, Christ and Christmas; 
blue salami, 9 day rains, 

50 cent avocados 
and purple 

or making it 

as a waitress at Norm's on the split shift, 

or as an emptier of 


or as a carwash or a busboy 
or a stealer of old lady's purses 
leaving them screaming on the sidewalks 
with broken arms at the age of 


2 red lights in your rear view mirror 

and blood in your 


toothache, and $979 for a bridge 

$300 for a gold 


and China and Russia and America, and 
long hair and short hair and no 
hair, and beards and no 


faces, and plenty of zigzag but no 
pot, except maybe one to piss in and 
the other one around your 

with each broken shoelace 

out of one hundred broken shoelaces, 

one man, one woman, one 


enters a 


so be careful 
when you 
bend over. 


chilled green 

what is it? 

an old woman, fat, yellow dress, 
torn stockings 
sitting on the curbing 
with a little boy. 

98 degrees at 3 in the afternoon 

it seems 


but look, they are calm, 
almost happy, 
they eat the green jello 
and the red roses shine. 



to be eaten by a hog with 
bad breath 

as the lemons swing in the wind 
yellow and ours. 



lovers everywhere 
clutch like asparagus 

american matador 

of course, he still gets his choice 
after the bullfights, 
but like with any other man 
the special one comes along, 
you can feel it in the stomach 
when they get you there, 
and the girl said, 

"It's either bullfighting or me." 

he turned on love 

to look at the face of death. 

you can see him at Tijuana 
working close to the horn 
taking chance after 
chance, he's been gored 
a number of times. 

and you wonder if the thing is 

working at his stomach 

as he fights 

getting him in closer 

than he should 

the sword is pointed 
in the sunlight, 
it goes in: 


i saw an old-fashioned whore today 

at the Thrifty drugstore 

buying a 5th of gin and a 5th of vodka 

she was a dyed blond 

and she was relaxed in a black and white striped dress 
that fell just below knee-length 
and her breasts were large 
and she was a little bit fat 

and the salesgirl who served her showed disgust 

but the whore was used to all that 

and waited for her change 

and for the bottles to be bagged 

and when the whore walked out 

she walked out easily 

and people looked up from their magazines 
and the boys around the newsstand looked 
and the people parking their cars looked 
and I walked behind her 
and I looked 

and she got into a green car 
pooltable green 
lit a cigarette, 

and I'm sure she drove off to someplace 

where people were always laughing and 

the music was always playing 

and the drinks were good 

and the furniture and rugs were nice 

and the mountains were tall 

and there were 3 German shepherds on the lawn, 

and when she made love you knew it 

and the price was not a lifetime, 

the blue cigarette smoke curling in the black 

ashtray a little wet with beer and mix, 

she'd roll you with the security of a leopard 

getting a deer, 

and you ought to see her in the bathtub 
singing an aria from one of those 
Italian operas. 


poem for barbara, poem for jane, 
poem for f ranees, poem for 
all or any of them 

the fish ate the flower 
and the tombs whistled 

as you told me you didn't care 

old men in the pawnshops of the world 

looked around and killed themselves in my mind 

when you said you 

didn't care 


the day I saw you with your new 

you and your new lover 

walking down my boulevards 

past the butcher shop 

past the liquor store 

past the real estate 


ha ha 

suddenly I didn't care 

I went into the store and I bought 

a figurine of a fawn 

a small cactus 

a box of shrimp 

a pair of green gloves 

a paring knife 

some incense 

pepper milk eggs 

a fifth of 


and a roadmap of lower 


the clerk put it all in a bag 
it bulged and was heavy and 
at last I knew that I had 


short order 

I took my girlfriend to your last poetry reading, 
she said. 

yes, yes? I asked. 

she's young and pretty, she said. 

and? I asked. 

she hated your 


then she stretched out on the couch 

and pulled off her 


I don't have very good legs, 
she said. 

all right, I thought, I don't have very good 
poetry; she doesn't have very good 

scramble two. 


the dwarf 

we'd had our icecream cones 
been scared by a dog 
picked flowers 
held hands in the sunlight. 

my little girl is 6 

and as good a girl as can 


we walked back to my place 
where two ladies were moving 
out of the apartment 
next door. 

one was a dwarf, 
quite squat 
with short trunk-like 

"Hank, what's wrong with that 

I'm sorry, little lady, 
that my child didn't know 
that there wasn't anything 
wrong with you. 


merry Christmas 

There I am 

hungover, I've just made it in 

and sit next to the mother of my child; 

she sits there old and grey, 

I sit there old and greying. . . 
there's a 6 year old daughter, 
it's Christmas at Edison Grammar School, 
December 17th, 

1 p.m. 

I sit mostly with women. 

ah, there's a guy, and there's a guy. . . 

what's the matter with those bums? 

no jobs? too 


first there's something. . . 
they need 5 nominations for the 
P.T.A. board. 

4 old dames nominate each other, 

like sneaky Hitlers. 

nobody wants the 5th nomination. . . 

"Will everybody in favor of the nominations 
being closed, please Yea in the 

there's a dog in there. . .somebody 

steps on his 


"YEA-IKE!" he goes... 

everybody laughs, the nominations are closed. 
Jesus Christ, 
by a dog... 

o.k., trot them on. 

no wait, the orchestra, tiny little people with 

tiny little violins, most serious little 

people, they are the string section. 

they play "Christmas Songs" under the direction 

of Mr. Plepler and Mr. Mettler. 

Mettler? oh well, it's not 
very good. 


"Five Little Christmas Bells," courtesy A.M. & P.M. 

has been changed to "Rocking The Child." 

no reason is 


the dog has been 
kicked out. I am still there 
with hangover. 

next the Kindergartens sing 

"Jingle Bells." they've been taught by 

Mrs. Bowers, Miss Lemon, Miss Lieberman. 

I check my program. . . 
how much longer? 

I notice that the children are black, white, 
oriental, brown. . .it's integration 
but it's easy, they show us how easy. 

2nd, 3rd, 4th grades. . . 

"Twelve Days of Christmas," they hold up paintings, 
take them down; up down, up down, and back to 
the Partridge in the Pear Tree, 
they've done it. perfect, even with the 
mistakes, courtesy Mrs. La Brache, Mrs. Bitticks. 
next comes 

"Pine Cones and Holly Berries," not so 

now here are the 5th and 6th graders. . . 

"Santa and the Mouse" . . . 

it's garbled, nobody can hear what they are 

saying, it's under the direction of 

Mr. Doerflinger. and he flings 'em. 

he sits them down and sits right down with them 

and all you can hear is 

Mr. Doerflinger's beautiful voice. 

Doerflinger seems everywhere, there he is in the center. 

there he is showing his 

buttocks, he likes to leap and run 

about, he sings and sings and gives his 5th and 6th 


graders the minor parts to back his 

singular chorus. I try to force myself to get jealous 

of Doerflinger but I 

can't. I'm very happy that I am not 

Mr. Doerflinger. a woman across the aisle turns to me: 

"He has a beautiful voice," she says. 

"Yes," I smile back, 

"he has." 

"Christmas Tree," 3rd, 4th, 5th graders, 
then, of course, we have 
"Deck the Halls." 
courtesy of Mrs. Homes. 

o, my god, it's the 1st and 2nd graders 
now! I'm nervous as shit. 

I'm sick, I 

don't know what to 

do. I've done time, lain in alleys drunk, 

slept with 50 women, I can't take 

it. . .the mother of my child seems 

quite calm. I'm the 

coward. . .where is she? 

all of a sudden they bring them through the 

back door — 

they've been bringing them 
through the front, 
what's going on? 

there's my kid, she's walking 
past, "hi!" I say, "hi!" 
she smiles and puts a finger to her 
lips, "shhh..." 

they file onto the 

platform. 1st and 2nd graders, 

c/ o Mr. Games, Miss McCormick, Mrs. Nagata, Mrs. 

Samarge. o.k. 

"Too Fat for the Chimney" . . . 
not too good, 

but she keeps looking at me and grinning. 


singing, waving; 

I smile back, wave, all 
grins. . .the old jailbird. . . 
then "Toy Trains." 

much better, we applaud, they file out in order, 

each waiting their 


she's gone... 

the remainder of the program loses 

some meaning, 

except a very sexy young 

chicano teacher 

in a yellow dress 

comes out and sings 

"Silent Night" 

in Spanish. 

meanwhile Mr. Doerflinger is seen running about, 

in this door, out that 

one, showing his buttocks, 

racing across the stage in some 



"Doerflinger," says somebody, 
he will not be forgotten by 
anybody, he will not allow himself to be, 
especially by the ladies. 

it goes on. 

"Let There Be Peace On Earth" 

we all sing together, the last number on the 


taxpayers forget Christmas, remember instead how nice your 
children are. 

we get back to the mother's apartment 


and there is a notice that they will shut off 
the gas that 

day. the mother claims no previous 

notice has been 


I drive them down to 5th street 
in Santa Monica 
to the gas co. 

I wave 

goodbye, they stand on the corner. 

my daughter has a hole 

in her black 




"Let there be peace on earth 
And let it begin with me. 

Let there be peace on earth. 

The peace that was meant to be. 

With God as our Father, 

Brothers all are we — 

Let me walk with my brother 
In perfect harmony." 



majestic, magic 

my little girl is 

on the carpet — 
out the door 
picking a 
flower, ha!, 
an old man, 
emerges from his 

and she looks at me 
but only sees 

ha!, and I become 
quick with the world 
and love right back 
just like I was meant 
to do. 


one with dante 

I have lost it in Paradise Valley 

with 4 women sitting in a kitchen 

talking and laughing about men and love and life and 


I have lost it in Paradise Valley 
I have lost the word and the way and the light, 

4 women sitting in the kitchen 
drinking gallons of 
coffee, and now 
I sit in front of a window 
looking at the desert, 
one with Dante, 

I wonder what the Paradise Valley ladies want, 
these 3 sisters and a friend. 

through this small window, 

I see children dogs cattle horses flies sand 
chickens ducks, 

I hear the names of men now from the kitchen 
and the girls laugh, and 
I wonder, what am I 
doing here? 

these girls. . .this continual examination of the senses 
and the ideas and the reasons and the facts and the 

destroys, destroys... 

I have lost it in Paradise Valley, 
you have to lose it somewhere: 

I chose Arizona; although the love 
last night was 

good, I am lost in the desert 
I have given it up. 


an interesting night 

my girlfriend 

she started smashing 

all my bottles 

my whiskey bottle and my 

beer bottles, 


yelling and screaming, 
then she ran 
out the door. 

3 police arrived 5 minutes 

one holding shotgun, 
and they asked 
various questions, 
one of them being: 
what do you 

I'm a writer, 

I said. 

the cop smirked at 
me, walked over to the 

picked up some papers 
and started 

it was my 2,000 word essay 
on the meaning of 

he didn't seem much 

after they left 
1 went all the way to 

and slept with a fine 
22 year old girl 


some pot 
3 cats 

3 homosexuals 
a 7 year old boy 
a dog, and 
a 24 by 20 photo 
of me 

hanging over the fireplace, 




a threat to my immortality 

she undressed in front of me 
keeping her pussy to the front 
while I layed in bed with a bottle of 

where'd you get that wart on 
your ass? I asked. 

that's no wart, she said, 
that's a mole, a kind of 

that thing scares me, I said, 
let's call 
it off. 

I got out of bed and 
walked into the other room and 
sat on the rocker 
and rocked. 

she walked out. now, listen, you 

old fart, you've got warts and scars and 

all kinds of things all over 

you. I do believe you're the ugliest 

old man 

I've ever seen. 

forget that, I said, tell me some more 

about that 

mole on your butt. 

she walked into the other room 

and got dressed and then ran past me 

slammed the door 

and was 


and to think, 

she'd read all my books of 
poetry too. 

I just hoped she wouldn't tell 
anybody that 
I wasn't pretty. 



I was somewhere. . .somewhere in Europe 

act II, scene II 


the whole building shook 

there was flame 

world ending, 

bodies hurled through air 

like mad 


the orchestra quit 


"It's the BOMB! THE 
BOMB!" somebody 

screamed, the bomb the bomb the bomb 
the bomb. 

I grabbed a fat blonde 
tore her dress away, 

"I don't want to 
die!" said the 

blonde, the whole opera house was 

coming down, blood on the 

floor, more flame. 

smoke, smoke, screaming, it was 

terrible. I stuck it 



a man's woman 

the dream of a man 
is a whore with a gold tooth 
and a garter belt, 

with false eyebrows 



light pink panties 
salami breath 
high heels 

long stockings with a very slight 
run on back of left stocking, 
a little bit fat, 
a little bit drunk, 

a little bit silly and a little bit crazy 

who doesn't tell dirty jokes 

and has 3 warts on her back 

and pretends to enjoy symphony music 

and who will stay a week 

just one week 

and wash the dishes and cook and fuck and suck 

and scrub the kitchen floor 

and not show any photos of her children 

or talk about her x-husband or husband 

or where she went to school or where she was born 

or why she went to jail last time 

or who she's in love with, 

just stay one week 

just one week 

and do the thing and go and never come 

for that one earring on the dresser. 


tight pink dress 

I read where this 44 year old soprano of some fame 

fell out of a 4 story window 

and killed herself, well, I suppose this is all right 

for sopranos of some fame, but 

I think that 8 stories is more 


I know this woman, a sister of the mother of my 

child, some years back 

her husband divorced her 

and she jumped out of a 4 story window 

and broke both legs 

and other assorted parts. 

maybe that soprano just wasn't as tough as she was; 

well, Helen got over the broken leg and parts, 

and she came around one day to my place in a nice tight 

pink dress, and we were alone but 

nothing happened, I didn't want it to, 

and we talked 

and now she is really married to something, 
one of the most obnoxious souls 
that I know... 

"he plays the flute," says the mother of my child, 

"they get along..." 

he came to see me one time and I ran him out the door: 
he packed death around with him like breath chasers. 
I've advised her to go 12 stories high 
when this one fails. . . 

I should have taken her the day she arrived in her 
tight pink dress. . . 
this guy and his flute. . . 
he probably shits flutes. . . 

and Helen with all that money, you think she might have 
done better. 


more or less, for julie: 

on the Hammond or through the bomb-shadowed window, 

through steak turned blue with the rot of drunken days, 

through signature and saliva 

through Savannah, 

dark running streets like veins 

caught in a juniper brush, through love spilled 

behind a broken shade on an October day; 

through forms and windows and lines, 

through a book by Kafka stained with wine, 

through wives and friends and jails, 

standing young once 

hearing Beethoven or Bruckner, 

or even riding a bicycle, 

young as that, 


coming across the bridge 

in Philadelphia 

and meeting your first whore, 

falling on the ice, drunk and numbed, 

you picking up she, she picking up he, 

until at last, laughing across all barriers, 

no marriage was ever more innocent or blessed, 

and I remember her name and yes her eyes, 

and a small mole on her left shoulder, 

and so we go down, down in sadness, sadness, 

sitting in a grease-stained room 

listening to the corn boil. 


this is the way it goes and goes and goes 

"All your writing about pain and suffering is 
a bunch of bullshit ." — 

just because I told you that rock music 
hurts my head 

just because we have slept and awakened and 
eaten together 

just because we've been in cars and at racetracks 

in parks in bathtubs in rooms 

just because we've seen the same swan and the same 
dog at the same time 

just because we've seen the same wind blow the same 

you have suddenly become a literary critic 

just because you have sculpted my head 
and read my books 

and told me of your loves and your flirtations and 
your travels 

just because I know the name of your daughter 

and have changed a flat tire for you 

you have suddenly become a literary critic 

just because you've had 3 poems accepted by a mimeo mag 
just because you're writing a novel about your own madness 
just because you shake your ass and have long brown hair 
you have suddenly become a literary critic 

just because I have fucked you 144 times 
you have suddenly become a literary critic 

well, then, tell me, 

of all these writers... who's pain is real? 

what? yes, I might have 

guessed — your pain is 

real, so, in the best interest of us all 

wave goodbye to the living who have lost the strength 

to weep, and 

as white ladies in pink rooms put on 
blue and green earrings, 
wave goodbye to me. 


left with the dog 

men in white t-shirts (unbothered 
by life) are walking their 

as I watch a professional basketball 
game on 
t.v. and 

I have no interest 

in who will win but I do notice 

a lady in the grandstand crossing 

her legs (my editor phoned me last night at 10:15 p.m. and 

found me asleep — 

maybe that's why he has to 

print the unpublished works of 

Gertrude Stein). 

very bad 

symphony music now 

(I mean bad for me) 

the violin sings of dank life and the 

grave and I am a student of 


here now 

my love has gone looking 
for an apartment in Venice, 

California and 

she has left me with her 

dog (a not quite immaculate creature named 


who sits behind my chair listening to a violin and 
a typewriter). 

they say 

fire-eaters, traffic cops, boxers and 
clerks in department stores 
sometimes know the 
truth. (I do what I 


the best one can settle for 
is an afternoon 

with the rent paid, some food in the refrigerator, 

and death something like 

a bad painting by a bad painter 

(that you finally buy because there's not 

anything else 


my love has gone looking for an apartment 
in Venice, California across the top of the sky 
something marches upsidedown; 


praying for a best seller 

waiting for my novelist friend to put the 

word down 

she sits in the kitchen 

thinking about the madhouse 

thinking about her x-husband 

while I entertain her 3 year old child 

who is now in the bathtub; 

well, listen, I guess after a madhouse or 

2 you need a few breaks. . . 

my novelist friend may be crazy now 

or she wouldn't be in the same house 

with me, 

or maybe I'm the one who's crazy: 
she's told me a couple of times she's going to 
cut off my balls if I do this thing or 
that thing. 

well, taking a chance with my balls on the line 
that way 

it had better be a good novel 

or at least a bad one that is a best seller. 

I sit here rolling cigarette after cigarette 

while listening to her 


I suppose that for each genius launched 
5 or 6 people must suffer for 




very well. 


that one 

your child has no name 
your hair has no color 
your face has no flesh 
your feet have no toes 
your country has ten flags 

your voice has no tongue 
your ideas slide like snakes 
your eyes do not match 

you eat bouquets of flowers 
throw poisoned meat to the dogs 

I see you linger in alleys with a club 
I see you with a knife for anybody 
I see you peddling a fishhead for a heart 

and when the sun comes churning down 

you'll come walking in from the kitchen 

with a drink in your hand 

humming the latest tune 

and smiling at me in your red tight dress 



have you ever kissed a panther ? 

this woman thinks she's a panther 

and sometimes when we are making love 

she'll snarl and spit 

and her hair comes down 

and she looks out from the strands 

and shows me her fangs 

but I kiss her anyhow and continue to love. 

have you ever kissed a panther? 

have you ever seen a female panther enjoying 

the act of love? 

you haven't loved, friend. 

you with your squirrels and chipmunks 

and elephants and sheep. 

you ought to sleep with a panther 

you'll never again want 

squirrels, chipmunks, elephants, sheep, fox, 


never anything but the female panther 

the female panther walking across the room 

the female panther walking across your soul, 

all other love songs are lies 

when that black smooth fur moves against you 

and the sky falls down against your back, 

the female panther is the dream arrived real 

and there's no going back 

or wanting to — 

the fur up against you, 

the search over 

and you are locked against the eyes of a panther. 


2 carnations 

my love brought me 2 carnations 
my love brought me red 
my love brought me her 
my love told me not to worry 
my love told me not to die 

my love is 2 carnations on a table 
while listening to Schoenberg 
on an evening darkening into night 

my love is young 

the carnations burn in the dark; 

she is gone leaving the taste of almonds 

her body tastes like almonds 

2 carnations burning red 
as she sits far away 
now dreaming of china dogs 
tinkling through her fingers 

my love is ten thousand carnations burning 

my love is a hummingbird sitting that quiet moment 

on the bough 

as the cat 



man and woman in bed at 10 p.m. 

I feel like a can of sardines, she said. 

I feel like a band-aid, I said, 

I feel like a tuna fish sandwich, she said. 

I feel like a sliced tomato, I said. 

I feel like it's gonna rain, she said. 

I feel like the clock has stopped, I said. 

I feel like the door's unlocked, she said. 

I feel like an elephant's gonna walk in, I said. 

I feel like we ought to pay the rent, she said. 

I feel like we oughta get a job, I said. 

I feel like you oughta get a job, she said. 

I don't feel like working, I said. 

I feel like you don't care for me, she said. 

I feel like we oughta make love, I said. 

I feel like we've been making too much love, she said. 
I feel like we oughta make more love, I said. 

I feel like you oughta get a job, she said. 

I feel like you oughta get a job, I said. 

I feel like a drink, she said. 

I feel like a 5th of whiskey, I said. 

I feel like we're going to end up on wine, she said. 

I feel like you're right, I said. 

I feel like giving up, she said. 

I feel like I need a bath, I said. 

I feel like you need a bath too, she said. 

I feel like you ought to bathe my back, I said. 

I feel like you don't love me, she said. 

I feel like I do love you, I said. 

I feel that thing in me now, she said. 

I feel that thing in you now too, I said. 

I feel like I love you now, she said. 

I feel like I love you more than you do me, I said. 

I feel wonderful, she said, I feel like screaming. 

I feel like going on forever, I said. 

I feel like you can, she said. 

I feel, I said. 

I feel, she said. 


the answer 

she runs into the front room from outside 

well, you always wanted a CRAZY woman, 
didn't you? 
hahahaha, ha. 

you've always been fascinated with CRAZY women, 
haven't you? 
hahahaha, ha. 

sit down, I say, I have the coffee water 

we sit by the kitchen window on a Los Angeles 


and I say, 

see that man walking by? 

yes, she says. 

know what he's thinking? 

I ask. 

what's he thinking? 
she asks. 

he's thinking, I say, he's thinking 
that he wants a loaf of bread for 

a loaf of bread for breakfast? 

yes, can you imagine some crazy son of a bitch 

wanting a loaf of bread for 


I can't imagine it. 

I get up and pour the coffees, then 
we look at each 


other, something has gone wrong the 
night before and we want to find out 
if it was her upset stomach 
or my diarrhea 
or something worse. 

we lift our coffees, touch them in toast, 
our eyes spark the question 

and we sit by a kitchen window on a Los Angeles 




a split 

death, he said, let it come, 
it was after the races, 
zipper on pants broken, 

$80 winner 
out one woman 

he drove through stop signs and 
red lights 

at 70 m.p.h. on a side street 

and then he heard the noise — 

he was smashing through a barricade of 

street obstructions 

boards and lights flying 

things jumping on the hood, 

the car was thrown against the curbing 

and he straightened it just in time 

to miss a parked car, 

he was drunk but it was the first time in 

35 years he had hit anything, 

and he ran up a dead end street, 

turned, came on out, 

took two rights 

and 5 minutes later he was inside his 

apartment. He got on the phone 

and an hour later there were 14 people 

drinking with him, 

all but the right one, 

and the next day he was sick 

and she was there 

and she said she had lost her purse out of 
town ($55 and all her i.d.), 100 miles out of town, 
she had gotten tired of waiting for him to phone 
or not to phone; 

she said, let's not have any more splits, I can't 
bear them, 

and he vomited, and she said, 

all you want to do is kill yourself. 

he said, all right, no more splits, 

but he knew it would happen again and again 

right down to the last split, 

and he got up and cleaned his mouth and washed 
and got back into bed with her 


and she held him like a baby, 

and he thought, hell, what kind of man am I? 

and then he didn't care 

and they kissed 

and it was all right until 

next time. 


power failure 

was all set to write an immortal poem, 
it was 9:30 p.m., 

had taken me all day to get the juices 
properly aligned, 

I sat down to the typewriter 

reached for the keys and then 

all the lights in the neighborhood went out. 

she was working on her novel. 

well, she said, we might as well go to 


we went to bed. 

since we had fucked 5 times in 2 nights 
we decided it might be a better time to 
tell eerie stories. 

she told me one about the 2 sisters lost in the woods 
who came upon the madman's house, but it was 
cold and dark and he was nowhere about 
so they decided to go in, and one sister slept in 
one bed and the other slept in the other, 
and later in the night one sister was awakened by 
this squeeking sound 

and she looked up and here was the madman 
rocking back and forth in this rocker 
with her sister's head in his lap, 
and I told one 

about how these two bums were in a skidrow room 
and one bum sat on the floor and stuck his hand in his 
mouth and ate his hand and then his arm and then ate the 
other hand and soon ate himself up while the other bum 
watched, and then the other bum sat on the floor and did 
the same thing, and the story ends with this neon sign 
blinking color off and on across the vacant floor. . . 
well, we went to sleep 

and then we were awakened when all the lights came on 

plus the radio and the t.v., 

and I said, oh god, life is back again, 

and she said, well, we might as well sleep now, 

and so I got up and turned everything off 

and we closed our eyes 

and she thought, there goes my immortal novel, 
and I thought, there goes my immortal poem. 


everything depends upon some type of electricity, 
the street lights kept me awake for 30 minutes, 
then I dreamed that I ate matchsticks and lightbulbs 
for a living and I was the best in my trade. 


snake in the watermelon 

we french kissed in the bathtub 

then got up and rode the merrygoround 

I fell over backwards in the chair 

then we ate 2 cheese sandwiches 

watered the plants and 

read the New York Times. 

the essence is in the action 

the action is the essence, 

between the moon and the sea and the ring 

in the bathtub 

the tame rats become more beautiful 

than long red hair, 

my father's hands cut steak again 

1 roller skate before pygmies with green eyes, 

the snake in the watermelon shakes the shopping cart, 

we entered between the sheets which were as 

delicious as miracles and walks in the park, 

the hawk smiled daylight and nighttime, 

we rode past frogs and elephants 

past mines in mountains 

past cripples working ouija boards, 

she had toes on her feet 

1 had toes on my feet 

we rode up and down and away 


it was sensible and pliable and holy 

and felt very good 

very very good, 

the red lights blinked 

the zepplin flew away 

the war ended, 

we stretched out then 

and looked at the ceiling 

a calm sea of a ceiling, 

it was all right, 

then we got back in the bathtub together 
and french kissed 
some more. 



style is the answer to everything — 
a fresh way to approach a dull or a 
dangerous thing, 
to do a dull thing with style 
is preferable to doing a dangerous thing 
without it. 

Joan of Arc had style 

John the Baptist 




Garcia Lorca. 

style is the difference, 
a way of doing, 
a way of being done. 

6 herons standing quietly in a pool of water 
or you walking out of the bathroom naked 
without seeing 


the shower 

we like to shower afterwards 

(I like the water hotter than she) 

and her face is always soft and peaceful 

and she'll wash me first 

spread the soap over my balls 

lift the balls 

squeeze them, 

then wash the cock: 

"hey, this thing is still hard!" 
then get all the hair down there, — 
the belly, the back, the neck, the legs, 

I grin grin grin, 
and then I wash her. . . 
first the cunt, I 

stand behind her, my cock in the cheeks of her ass 
I gently soap up the cunt hairs, 
wash there with a soothing motion, 

I linger perhaps longer than necessary, 

then I get the backs of the legs, the ass, 

the back, the neck, I turn her, kiss her, 

soap up the breasts, get them and the belly, the neck, 

the fronts of the legs, the ankles, the feet, 

and then the cunt, once more, for luck. . . 

another kiss, and she gets out first, 

toweling, sometimes singing while I stay in 

turn the water on hotter 

feeling the good times of love's miracle 

I then get out... 

it is usually mid-afternoon and quiet, 

and getting dressed we talk about what else 

there might be to do, 

but being together solves most of it, 

in fact, solves all of it 

for as long as those things stay solved 

in the history of woman and 

man, it's different for each 

better and worse for each — 

for me, it's splendid enough to remember 

past the marching of armies 

and the horses that walk the streets outside 

past the memories of pain and defeat and unhappiness: 


Linda, you brought it to me, 
when you take it away 
do it slowly and easily 

make it as if I were dying in my sleep instead of in 
my life, amen. 


if we take — 

if we take what we can see — 

the engines driving us mad, 

lovers finally hating; 

this fish in the market 

staring upward into our minds; 

flowers rotting, flies web-caught; 

riots, roars of caged lions, 

clowns in love with dollar bills, 

nations moving people like pawns; 

daylight thieves with beautiful 

nighttime wives and wines; 

the crowded jails, 

the commonplace unemployed, 

dying grass, 2-bit fires; 

men old enough to love the grave. 

These things, and others, in content 
show life swinging on a rotten axis. 

But they've left us a bit of music 
and a spiked show in the corner, 
a jigger of scotch, a blue necktie, 
a small volume of poems by Rimbaud, 
a horse running as if the devil were 
twisting his tail 

over bluegrass and screaming, and then, 
love again 

like a streetcar turning the corner 

on time, 

the city waiting, 

the wine and the flowers, 

the water walking across the lake 

and summer and winter and summer and summer 

and winter again. 


About the Author 

CHARLES BUKOWSKI is one of America's best-known contemporary 
writers of poetry and prose, and, many would claim, its most influential 
and imitated poet. He was born in Andemach, Germany, to an American 
soldier father and a German mother in 1920, and brought to the United 
States at the age of three. He was raised in Los Angeles and lived there for 
fifty years. He published his first story in 1944 when he was twenty-four 
and began writing poetry at the age of thirty-five. He died in San Pedro, 
California, on March 9, 1994, at the age of seventy- three, shortly after 
completing his last novel. Pulp (1994). 

During his lifetime he published more than forty-five books of poetry 
and prose, including the novels Post Office (1971), Factotum (1975), Women 
(1978), Ham on Rye (1982), and Hollywood (1989). Among his most recent 
books are the posthumous editions of What Matters Most Is How Well You 
Walk Through the Fire (1999), Open All Night: New Poems (2000), Beerspit Night 
and Cursing: The Correspondence of Charles Bukowski and Sheri Martinelli 
1960 — 1967 (2001), and The Night Torn Mad with Footsteps: New Poems (2001). 

All of his books have now been published in translation in over a dozen 
languages and his worldwide popularity remains undiminished. In the 
years to come, Ecco will publish additional volumes of previously uncol- 
lected poetry and letters. 

Visit for exclusive information on your favorite 
HarperCollins author. 


The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills (1969) 

Post Office (1971) 

Mockingbird Wish Me Luck (1972) 

South of No North (1973) 

Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame: Selected Poems 1955 — 1973 (1974) 
Factotum (1975) 

Love Is a Dog from Hell: Poems 1974 — 1977 (1977) 

Women (1978) 

Play the Piano Drunk /Like a Percussion Instrument/ 

Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit (1979) 

Shakespeare Never Did This (1979) 

Dangling in the Tournefortia (1981) 

Ham on Rye (1982) 

Bring Me Your Love (1983) 

Hot Water Music (1983) 

There's No Business (1984) 

War All the Time: Poems 1981 — 1984 (1984) 

You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense (1986) 

The Movie: " Barfly " (1987) 

The Roominghouse Madrigals: Early Selected Poems 1946 — 1966 (1988) 
Hollywood (1989) 

Septuagenarian Stew: Stories & Poems (1990) 

The Last Night of the Earth Poems (1992) 

Screams from the Balcony: Selected Letters 1960 — 1970 (1993) 

Pulp (1994) 

Living on Luck: Selected Letters 1960s — 1970s (Volume 2) (1995) 

Betting on the Muse: Poems & Stories (1996) 

Bone Palace Ballet: New Poems (1997) 

The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship (1998) 
Reach for the Sun: Selected Letters 1978 — 1994 (Volume 3) (1999) 

What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire: New Poems (1999) 
Open All Night: New Poems (2000) 

The Night Torn Mad with Footsteps: New Poems (2001) 

Beerspit Night and Cursing: The Correspondence of Charles Bukowski & Sheri 
Martinelli 1960—1967 (2001) 


MOCKINGBIRD WISH ME LUCK. Copyright © 1972 by Charles Bukowski 
Anderson. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American 
Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been 
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text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, 
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